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Morcha confines BDO, shuts office

Posted by Ramesh Khati on August 22, 2009

Darjeeling, Aug. 21: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which has been crying hoarse over the lack of growth in the hills, today shut down a block office in charge of rural development indefinitely and confined the officers for eight hours.

Around 100 Morcha supporters had confined Takdah block development officer Esther Lepcha from 1pm — along with joint BDO Tshering Choden Dukpa — after she allegedly refused to meet them despite an appointment.

The gherao was lifted at 9pm — usually a very late hour in the hills where by six in the evening the roads are deserted — after the Darjeeling district administration agreed to a meeting with party representatives tomorrow. An additional district magistrate, T Sherpa, had negotiated the officers’ release. The Morcha has demanded Lepcha’s transfer.

The BDO said the appointment with the Morcha had been fixed for August 26 and not for today as the party had claimed.

“I had gone to Peshak to oversee the rehabilitation of landslide victims. There, another group of Morcha leaders had been waiting for me. Even after I came back, I agreed to meet the group here. I had given them time at 3pm. But they started the gherao as soon as I entered the office,” said Lepcha over the phone from Takdah, 30km from here.

Takdah block is surrounded by 10 tea gardens and 55 villages.

During the initial days of the Morcha agitation for a separate state, senior leaders had said they “wanted Gorkhaland rather than development”. In the past few months, the party changed tack, allowing development work, but its agitation that often included general strikes hampered completion of many ongoing projects.

Norbu G. Lama, the president of the Morcha’s Takdah-Teesta Valley Committee, had earlier said the gherao would not be lifted till the Darjeeling district magistrate “apologised” for his “rudeness” and gave them a written assurance that development work would begin soon.

“The BDO was not there when we went to meet her even after an appointment. When we called up the district magistrate, he was very rude and told us not to bother his officials. We demand an apology and we want a written assurance that development work in the area will be taken up immediately,” Lama said.

He denied that the BDO had given them an alternative date. “We had not received any note of that sort from the BDO. Moreover, the road to NH31A that passes below Takdah is blocked with debris. How can she give us time next week, when we have come to her because of an emergency?”

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri refused to speak on the gherao or on his party members calling the BDO to Peshak. “Please talk to Norbu Lama who is in charge of the area,” said Giri. The party had initially planned to provide the administration time till Monday to look into its grievances after which they would have closed down the block office indefinitely if their demands were not met.

“There seems to be some misunderstanding. The matter will be sorted out soon,” said Surendra Gupta, the Darjeeling district magistrate.


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