Gorkhaland activists relax strike till next round of talks (Lead)

October 22nd, 2008 - 11:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Siliguri, Oct 22 (IANS) The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) Wednesday night partially postponed its agitation in West Bengal’s Darjeeling hills and nearby areas till the next round of tripartite talks in Delhi. The GJM had been asking people to use GL (Gorkhaland) numberplates instead of WB (West Bengal) on vehicles and Gorkhaland signboards on offices and commercial establishments in the Darjeeling hills.

Earlier, traffic movement on two key national highways in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district, including one considered the lifeline to Sikkim, was affected Wednesday as a 72-hour transport strike called by Left trade union Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) came into force.

However, the Communist Party of India-Marxist’s labour wing CITU - which had called the strike protesting against the non-cooperation movement launched by the GJM to press for its Gorkhaland demand - withdrew the agitation after discussions with the Darjeeling district administration.

The GJM’s decision followed a meeting between its top brass and state Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi in Darjeeling Wednesday evening when Gandhi requested them to withdraw the agitation till the second round of tripartite talks in Delhi and help in creating a congenial and peaceful atmosphere for the parleys.

“Following his request, our central committee met and decided that our agitation asking people to write Gorkhaland on signboards and using GL on the numberplates of commercial vehicles and taxis would be withheld till the talks,” said GJM president Bimal Gurung.

However, the GJM will continue to support use of GL on private cars and two-wheelers, besides urging people not to pay taxes, electricity bills and telephone charges to government-run organisations.

The GJM leaders also brought to the notice of the governor the agitations - “often violent” - which being carried on by outfits opposed to it in the plains, Terai and Dooars regions.

Gandhi promised to take up the matter with state Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

The CITU strike affected the National Highway-31A, the gateway to neighbouring state Sikkim, and National Highway-31 that heads towards Kalimpong sub-division in the district.

The police said some CITU supporters damaged a car with a GL (Gorkhaland) number plate when it was entering the plains Wednesday morning.

CITU supporters also barricaded three different entry points in the plains - Khaprail Bazaar under Matigara police station, Sukna under Pradhan Nagar police station area and at Bhaktinagar - obstructing trucks, passenger cars and goods vehicles from entering the Darjeeling hills from Siliguri sub-division.

“The situation is under control now. We’ve deployed police force at different points to keep a tab in the plains,” Darjeeling district additional police superintendent Gaurav Sharma said.

He said no untoward incident has been reported so far in the district.

The GJM, led by its president Bimal Gurung, has been spearheading a movement in the hills demanding a separate state and also opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling.

The central government in 2005 announced the Sixth Schedule status to the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)-led Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) that ensures greater autonomy to the governing body. But Gurung’s group, which is opposed to the GNLF, is demanding full statehood.

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