Seven top GNLF leaders leave party

July 27th, 2008 - 10:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Siliguri/Kolkata, July 27 (IANS) An uneasy calm prevailed in Darjeeling as seven top Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leaders, including its lone legislator in West Bengal Santa Chetri, Sunday quit the party and announced support for the Gorkhaland agitiation now spearheaded by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM). Alleging that the police and administration have ceased to exist in the Darjeeling hills, Chhetri told IANS in Kolkata: “As a peoples’ representative I have to go by the wishes of the People. They now want Gorkhaland. I am with them”.

However, she conceded that the deterioration of the situation in the hills and lack of security had also played a part in shaping her decision.

“We are also human beings. We also need security. All our branch committees have been dissolved. Almost every leader has left GNLF. There is virtually no party organisation left,” said Chhetri, now in the city to attend the ongoing state assembly session.

But Chhetri said she had not taken any decision to join the GJM.

Six other senior leaders of the GNLF, which has spearheaded the movement for a separate Gorkhaland state in northern West Bengal for nearly three decades under Subash Ghising, including the party’s Kurseong unit president Indra Narayan Pradhan and general secretary N.D. Khawas also broke ranks with the outfit.

The exodus from the GNLF, which had been continuing for the last couple of months, gathered momentum a day after party supremo Subash Ghising shifted to Siliguri in the plains following a 15-day deadline set by GJM president Bimal Gurung for him to leave the hills.

Ghising, now resting at a guest house here, said he had now adopted a wait and watch policy. “This is also a part of politics. The hill situation has worsened. So I have left the hills. I am hopeful of returning to the hills”.

However, he said the latest disturbances would not have occurred had the sixth Schedule status - ensuring greater autonomy to the hill governing body Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council - been announced earlier.

However, Ghising answered in the negative when asked whether he would leave politics.

Meanwhile, the last rites of GJM women’s wing leader Pramila Chhetri, who was killed in firing from inside of a GNLF leader, was performed Sunday. A large number of GJM leaders, including Gurung, attended the funeral.

The hills flared up Friday when agitated GJM activists attacked Ghising’s house in Darjeeling, and pelted stones at it breaking window panes.

Another GNLF leader, Dipak Gurung’s residence was set afire, following which a bullet fired from inside the residence killed Chhetri.

GJM activists alleged that Gurung himself had fired, and he has been taken into judicial custody Saturday. The GJM supporters continued their demonstration Saturday and set fire to houses of two GNLF leaders Dawa Pukrin and Mouri Kalikutey.

With the GJM twice giving calls for indefinite shutdowns, Darjeeling Hills, Siliguri and the Dooars were on the boil since June. Tea and tourism - the bread and butter of the region - have been severely hit.

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