Gurung says he will quit GTA

The Telegraph

VIVEK CHHETRI

Gurung at Singamari in Darjeeling on Monday. Picture by Suman Tamang

Darjeeling, July 29: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung today said he would step down as GTA chief executive in the next three to four days after completing some work in the hill body.

Although the hill party leader did not specify what the work was, he said the autonomous body had been a “failure” because of the state government.

Gurung made the announcement to step down on the first day of a 72-hour general strike that his party has called in the hills to revive its campaign for statehood.

“The GTA has been a failure and it is only because of the state government and not the Centre. The GTA was a failure the day we had to go to court to get a new principal secretary posted. Even after almost a year of the GTA’s formation, the state government has not yet fully transferred the departments,” Gurung said. “There is too much interference from the state government in the GTA’s functioning.”

Gurung said he would step down from the GTA to intensify the statehood agitation in the hills, the details of which would be announced after the party’s central committee meeting that would be held either tomorrow or Wednesday.

The Morcha chief, however, said he would not ask the remaining 44 elected GTA Sabha members to step down immediately.

“For the moment, only I will resign after completing two works of the GTA. The rest of the elected GTA members will resign at an opportune moment,” he said.

The Morcha’s hardening stance on statehood is linked to the demand for Telangana.

The Morcha feels the Congress-led UPA government is on the verge of allowing the creation of a separate Telangana state. Neither the Congress in Delhi nor the UPA government has spoken officially on allowing the formation of Telangana yet.

Yesterday, the hill party wrote to the Prime Minister, saying that nothing could be an alternative to statehood.

Gurung today threatened to teach chief minister Mamata Banerjee few “lessons”.

“I know the state government believes in bloodshed and they will definitely deploy forces to curb our movement. They might even kill me but before I die, I will teach her (Mamata) a lesson or two,” he told a news conference in the Singmari Morcha office.

Mamata has said several times earlier that she is against the division of Bengal. Her utterances on such lines on January 29 this year sparked protests in the hills.

Most places in the hills were calm today, barring a case of arson in Kalimpong and a self-immolation bid by a youth in Darjeeling.

Alleged Morcha activists today torched a few private vehicles in Kalimpong. In Darjeeling town, a Yuva Morcha activist poured kerosene on himself in a self-immolation bid but was stopped before he could light a match.

The district police chief’s convoy was held up by protesters for a few minutes at Chowk Bazar before it was allowed passage around 11.45am.

Kunal Aggarwal, the darjeeling SP, said six cases have been registered against Morcha supporters across the hills for blocking national and state highways and stopping his convoy.

“So far 10 people have been arrested from Melli for blocking the national highway that connects Sikkim (NH31A). They were produced in a Kalimpong court and remanded in judicial custody for 10 days,” said Aggarwal.

Among the six cases, two were registered in Kalimpong police station, one each at Mirik and Darjeeling Sadar and two at Sukhiapokhria.

“In Melli (Kalimpong subdivision), a vehicle coming from Sikkim was torched around 5am, an hour before the strike was supposed to be enforced. Some people also tried to torch a motorcycle in that area. One vehicle was damaged in Kalimpong,” said Aggarwal.

He added that NH31A was mostly free of picketers during the day. “We have formed two police escort teams to ensure that vehicles moving to and from Sikkim do not face any problem.”

The state government has decided to deploy a platoon of female police personnel in Darjeeling tomorrow.

“One more platoon of the Indian Reserve Battalion will arrive in Darjeeling later today,” Aggarwal said.

Today, most tea gardens remained shut although few workers from the opposition parties reported for work in six of the 85-odd plantations in the hills.

District magistrate Saumitra Mohan attended his office in Darjeeling today although attendance in the office was negligible.

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