Pro-Gorkhaland outfits form joint action committee

Darjeeling, Aug 16 (IANS) Several parties led by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) Friday formed a Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee (GJAC) and called for a five-day agitation starting Aug 19 asking people to stay indoors.

The GJM and other parties, fighting for a separate Gorkhaland state, called for the five-day "Ghar Bhitra Janta" (people inside homes) agitation in support of their demand.

"We have decided to form the GJAC to step up the movement for Gorkhaland. We have also chalked out plans for a eight-day agitation and requested people not to venture outdoors (Aug 19-23)," GJM leader and JCAC chairman Enos Das Pradhan said.

Besides the GJM, the Communist Party of Revolutionary (Marxist), the All India Gorkha League, Hill BJP and the Congress were among the parties which attended parleys at the Darjeeling Gymkhana Club. The state's ruling Trinamool Congress, opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Gorkha National Liberation Front boycotted.

"There will be rakhi bandhan processions on August 24-25," said Pradhan.

On Aug 26, a human chain would be formed. "People will come out wearing black bands, with posters hanging from their necks demanding Gorkahaland and condemning the state government's attitude," said Pradhan.

Presidents and secretaries of all the outfits would be part of the GJAC executive committee.

"The GJAC has agreed that GTA (hill development body Gorkhaland Territorial Administration) is a failure and will be repealed soon," said GJM president Bimal Gurung, who has already resigned as GTA Chief Executive.

Pradhan asked the central government to intervene to break the deadlock on the Gorkhaland issue.

"We are ready to speak to governor M.K. Narayanan if he wants to talk to us," said Pradhan.

The GJAC would meet again Aug 18, he added.

Opposing the GJAC pronouncements, the state government promised steps to ensure normalcy.

State North Bengal Affairs minister Gautam Deb said: "Ghar Bhitra Janta" was only another name for the 'people's curfew' imposed by the GJM in the hills Aug 13-14, which was frowned upon by the Calcutta High Court.

"The high court has said the Janta Curfew (People's Curfew) is only a form of bandh (shutdown), and is unconstitutional. No Indian citizen is above the law or the constitution. All steps needed will be taken to protect the constitution and keep life normal," Deb said.

"We'll rally the people behind us and tackle the situation administratively and politically," the minister said.

He accused the Congress and the BJP of supporting the Gorkhaland movement. "We demand to know why the Congress and BJP leaders were present at the meeting."

Darjeeling District Magistrate Puneet Yadav said some state government employees have been asked to show cause for not attending office during the shutdowns and people's curfew imposed by the GJM recently.

Meanwhile, the number of arrests following the recent unrest has risen to nearly 400.

Trouble started afresh in the hills after the GJM intensified the Gorkhaland movement following the United Progressive Alliance's (UPA) green light to a separate Telangana. Two GJM activists have attempted self-immolation and one of them succumbed. The state government has ruled out any division of the state.

The Calcutta High Court recently declared the GJM shutdown illegal and sought explanation as to why the Morcha should not be made to compensate for infringing the fundamental rights of the people.

The Gorkhaland movement for a separate state -- to be carved out of parts of Darjeeling and its neighbouring Jalpaiguri district -- has left many dead over the past two-and-half decades, besides affecting the region's economy based on tea, timber and tourism.

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