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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

GJM burns copies of GTA accord, calls for boycott of elections to semi-autonomous body

Elections to the GTA are due in July when the term of the morcha-ruled body will end.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2017 16:33 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Darjeeling
Gorkha Janamukti Morcha supporters hold a protest rally in support of a separate Gorkhaland state.
Gorkha Janamukti Morcha supporters hold a protest rally in support of a separate Gorkhaland state. (AFP file photo )

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Tuesday morning burnt copies of the tripartite Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) accord at several places in Darjeeling hills and called for boycott of upcoming elections to the semi-autonomous body, scaling up its statehood agitation.

“Today we conducted the funeral of the GTA accord. After today, no one will utter the word GTA. We are appealing to all parties not to participate if the state government wants to hold elections to the GTA. If anyone contests, he will do so at his own risk,” said GJM assistant secretary Binay Tamang, who led the main agitation programme in Darjeeling town.

Copies of the accord, signed on July 18, 2011 between the Centre, West Bengal government and the GJM, leading to the formation of the semi-autonomous body to rule the hills, were gutted at several places in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Mirik, Gorubathan and at least at a couple of places in the Dooars at 11.19am, a time believed to be auspicious by morcha president Bimal Gurung.

Thousands of morcha supporters came down on the streets to take part in the agitation. Though the agitators also had plans to burn copies at Pintail village, where the agreement was signed in presence of then Union home minister P Chidambaram, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Gurung, security forces occupied the place in large numbers, thwarting their move.

Police were on high alert to prevent the situation from spinning out of control. Two IPS officers led the police patrols on the streets of Darjeeling. It was the 13th day of the indefinite bandh called by the GJM in the hills to push for a separate state.

“This is not the way to carry on an agitation. The people will have the last word,” tourism minister Goutam Deb told a TV channel in his initial reaction.

Several morcha supporters stood bare body on the streets while other smashed tubelights on their backs. The fine glass cut through the skin and some of the agitators began bleeding. This was the first instance when GJM adopted such a gory method of protest.

“The ongoing movement has become a mass movement and it is not under the control of Bimal Gurung. GJM is not responsible for the damage of government properties and vehicles, including that of opposition leaders and supporters,” said Binita Roka, GJM spokesperson.

Incidentally, the Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha (GJYM) on Monday threatened self-immolation and indefinite hunger strike to mount pressure on the Centre and West Bengal government to grant statehood to the Darjeeling region.

The GJYM is the youth wing of the GJM, which is spearheading the Gorkhaland movement.

Elections to the GTA are due in July, when the term of the semi-autonomous body will end.

The formation of GTA had ended four years of struggle for a separate state of Gorkhaland after Gurung broke away from Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and formed the GJM in 2007.

Since the latest flare-up on June 8, other hill parties such as the GNLF have been mounting pressure on the GJM that rules the semi-autonomous body to resign from the GTA and scrap the accord that, they argued, was the biggest stumbling block on the way to a separate state.

Last week all the 45 elected GJM members resigned from the GTA.

The resignation and burning of the accord symbolise total rejection of the agreement in favour of statehood.

West Bengal government, however, claims the ongoing statehood agitation is an attempt by the GJM to divert attention from the misappropriation of funds allocated to the GTA.

The government instituted a special audit in the GTA and the three civic bodies of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong to unearth GJM’s alleged misuse of funds.

CID probe into deaths of morcha supporters

The state government, meanwhile, decided to hold a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probe into the deaths of morcha supporters allegedly in firing by the security forces in Singamari, Darjeeling on June 17. Gurung had earlier demanded a CBI investigation into the incident, accusing police of gunning down his party supporters.

Mamata Banerjee denied police opened fire on that day and described the allegations as “absolutely false.”

First Published: Jun 27, 2017 12:56 IST

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