Feb. 23: Calm returned to the hills today as shops opened and traffic was back on roads, but hunger strikes beginning tomorrow threaten to shatter the fragile peace.
The condition of five Gorkha Janmukti Morcha members fasting in Bagrakote in the Dooars for the past 10 days deteriorated and two of them were hospitalised today.
Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the spokesperson for the Morcha, today said the state government had not responded to the proposal to set up a joint verification committee to determine the geographical boundary of the proposed set-up.
“The state’s intention is to avoid any breakthrough on the settlement and instead push the issue till the Assembly elections and talk tough to garner the sympathy of the rest of the state,” said Chhetri.
“During the (eleven rounds of tripartite) talks, the Bengal representative would only say that they had to refer the matter (of setting up a JVC) to the government but they would always come back with no results.”
A Morcha leader said the state government had also turned down its demand for a CBI probe into the Sibchu firing.
“To press for all these demands, we are starting hunger strikes across the hills,” said a Morcha leader. “If something unpleasant happens, then the state would have to take the blame.”
From tomorrow, the Gorkhaland Personnel and ex-servicemen will sit on indefinite hunger strikes in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Mirik and Gorubathan.
The stalemate and the hunger strike are weighing heavy on the minds of the people. “God forbid if anything happens to those on hunger strike. There is little doubt that there could be fresh violence and another round of uncertainty if anything untoward happens to them,” said a resident.
In Bagrakote, two of the five Gorkha Janmukti Nari Morcha workers who have been on an indefinite hunger-strike since February 14, broke their fast and were admitted to the district hospital this morning.
After doctors had examined the five women, officials of the Jalpaiguri district administration requested them to break the fast. However, only two of them, Nirmala Diyali, 50, and Brinda Lama, 30, conceded to the request.
Deepa Tamang, who is still on hunger strike, said she and the two others, Mamta Chhetri and Devi Banuri, would not leave the spot. “We shall continue fasting as long as our bodies can take it,” she said.