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GJM stir spreads to Terai

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 25, 2009

PUTONG (KURSEONG): Barely an hour’s drive from Siliguri, beyond Bagdogra and the military garrison of Bengdubi, the road starts to climb through dense forests. This is an alternative road towards Mirik and Darjeeling
thereafter, normally used by tourists who reach Bagdogra by air. The Naxalbari block of Siliguri subdivision ends on the banks of the Balasone soon after the Tirhanna tea estate. Kurseong subdivision starts beyond this. The small settlement of Putong rests on the steep slopes, amid picturesque settings. Residents largely of Nepali origin tend to the Putong tea estate.

Till recently, the Gorkhaland agitation had not left much of a mark on the residents. But things have changed. Three residents of Putong were among the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) supporters arrested from Panighata. One of them, Poonam Sharma, is a college student. This was the launching pad the GJM leadership was waiting for. On Thursday, leaders from Kurseong turned up at Putong with relief for the families of those arrested.

During the short programme, the village headman vowed to fight the “oppression” of the state government. “I will fight to the death for Gorkhaland,” he said as villagers cheered. Family members of Sharma, Diwas Rai and Bimal Tamang the two others who have been arrested wept and narrated their woes to the leaders. Apart from clothes and food, they also received some cash.

“You have witnessed how dissent starts. The arrested GJM workers have been kept in a cramped cell. There is no explanation as to why a case of Kurseong has been shifted to Siliguri. There is a strike here as well, but we have decided not to resort to violence. That is what the West Bengal government wants us to do. We are being labeled communal. Have we done anything against any community? Today, we are receiving support from Bengalis, Marwaris and Biharis. I am a teacher at a Bengali-medium school. Can I afford to be communal? Our demands are very much within the Constitution. Have new states not been formed elsewhere in the country,” said C B Singh, president of the GJM’s Kurseong subdivision committee.

Vice-president Kamal Thapa went a step further and said international borders would be more secure once Gorkhaland becomes a reality. “The unchecked infiltration will come to an end,” he said.

“When you go to Delhi and people ask you where you are from, you say West Bengal. When the same question is asked of us, don’t we have the right to say Gorkhaland? Is it too much to ask for? The state government is trying to stall dialogue. They do not realize that the Centre will be the one deciding our fate,” Singh added.

Though the GJM leadership talks about support from other communities, tension is palpable in small settlements in the Terai, like Belgachhi, which have a mixed population. The tribals who work in the tea gardens there are considerably better off than the residents of Nepali origin. With tribals not supporting the Gorkhaland cause, years of peaceful co-existence is threatened. The people of Nepali origin, however, strongly believe that only a separate state will end their troubles.

Source:The Times Of India


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