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Morcha withdraws NH closure – CRPF for strike-hit Darjeeling

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 22, 2009

Morcha supporters at a picket at Sukna on Tuesday to issue emergency passes to vehicles.

Morcha supporters at a picket at Sukna on Tuesday to issue emergency passes to vehicles.

Darjeeling, July 21: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today decided to keep NH31A out of the purview of its ongoing strike, hours after Bengal government had announced the deployment of CRPF across Darjeeling district.

However, the Morcha sought to relate its decision to a letter sent by the Bengal home secretary, Ardhendu Sen, that offered to discuss the issue of Gorkhaland at the tripartite talks in Delhi on August 11.

The national highway is the only arterial road connecting Sikkim with the rest of the country. The Supreme Court had yesterday sent notices to the Morcha, the CPM and the Bengal government among others, asking them to explain in two weeks why its earlier order to not allow blockades on the highway had not been complied with. The state government’s decision to deploy seven companies of the CRPF in the hills ought to be viewed in this context.

The Supreme Court issued the notices on a petition filed by O.P. Bhandari, a resident of Sikkim, who had pointed out the troubles his state faced whenever parties like Morcha called strikes in the hills.

After a meeting of the Morcha central committee this evening, Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the party, said: “This is a victory of sorts for us. The state government has agreed to discuss Gorkhaland for the first time. The tripartite meeting had already been advanced from August 24 to August 11. In the wake of these developments, we have decided to allow all vehicles to ply on NH31A. Police vehicles can also now move in the hills.” Asked about the fate of the indefinite strike, Giri said the party would hold discussions and take a decision “in a day or two”.

When contacted, Sen said: “The Morcha wanted to know whether Gorkhaland would figure in the talks in Delhi. I have sent them a letter, saying we are ready to discuss anything, including the demand to create a separate state, but only at the official level.”

In the morning, when told about the deployment of CRPF, Giri said: “Even if 100 companies are deployed, our movement will not be crushed.”

“We had requested the Centre to make paramilitary forces available in Darjeeling district. The Union government agreed to our plea and seven companies of CRPF will be deployed in the hills,” said Rahul Srivastava, the superintendent of police, Darjeeling.

Sources said the forces were expected to reach Siliguri tomorrow.

In Siliguri, Bengal chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarty hinted that police might have to intervene for the return of normalcy in the Darjeeling hills if the Morcha continued its indefinite strike.

“The Morcha has not withdrawn the indefinite strike even after we appealed to it several times ever since the next round of tripartite talks was announced. If the strike continues even during the talks, police will have to intervene to restore normalcy in the hills,” Chakrabarty said.

In Delhi, a home ministry official said: “They (Morcha) have some problems with the state government and that is why they are protesting. But our priority is to keep the highway to Sikkim open.”

Source: The Telegraph


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