Series of protest rallies looms on hills

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Sept. 2: The Darjeeling hills are set to witness a series of public meetings and hunger strikes in the coming days.

To start with, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has announced its date for the public meeting in Darjeeling town which could not be held on August 20 following landslides across the hills. “The meeting will now be held on September 6 in the Motor Stand area,” said Amar Lama, a central committee member of the Morcha.

The Morcha is likely to announce its future agitation on Sunday even though the announcement of a general strike is being ruled out with the next tripartite meeting between the party and representatives of the state and the Centre scheduled for December 21 in Darjeeling.

The ABGL, too, will organise rallies in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik. “We will hold the meetings at Chowk Bazar here on September 7. The rallies will be held in Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik on September 9, 13 and 20,” said Madan Tamang, the president of the party.

The Morcha and the ABGL do not share the best of the relations. In fact, Tamang’s party could not hold its scheduled meeting on December 26, as hundreds of supporters of the Morcha’s youth and women wings had brought out a rally half an hour before the start of the ABGL rally that day.

The Morcha supporters had raised slogans against the “anti-Gorkhaland supporters” and blocked Gitanga Dara, a permanent podium at Chowk Bazar where political parties normally hold their meetings, till well past noon.

Given this backdrop, it is to be seen whether the ABGL can hold its meeting in the hills on the proposed date.

The Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, an affiliate of the Morcha, has decided to start a relay hungerstrike demanding a hike in the annual bonus and winter allowances of labourers in the state-run cinchona plantations.

“The cinchona plantation workers get only Rs 1,000 as annual bonus and Rs 115 as winter allowances. We will start the relay hunger strike from September 4 at Mungpoo, about 40km from Darjeeling,” said Suraj Subba, the general secretary of the union.

The cinchona cultivation is the biggest public sector undertaking in the hills and is spread across four plantations in Mungpoo and Latpanchar in Kurseong subdivision and in Munsong and Rongo in Kalimpong.

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