Darjeeling in Pictures


 COURTESY: darjeelingtimnes.com

 Hunger Strike by students at Chowkbazaar, Darjeeling

 2 hours roads blocks in Darjeeling 

 GJMM rally in Darjeeling

 Happy New Year Bridge

GLP camp at Triveni


The price of freedom


The price of freedom

I read a news piece today, shared by a friend of mine; it told the story of a young lady Deepika Mukhia and her son Utsav. Deepika’s husband Uttam Mukhia of 17 J&K Rifles had become martyr defending the country against terrorists in Kashmir and was given a Sena Medal for gallantry.

The story included a rhetorical piece which I wanted to share with you all, “… as many as 34 Gorkha soldiers, most of them in their early twenties, have been martyred in Operation Rakshak (counter-insurgency in Kashmir) and the Kargil conflict (Operation Vijay). Casualties do not deter this warrior race. It only spurs war widows to turn their sons into soldiers.”

It fills our heart with pride to read such a flattering comment, and I am sure those of us who read the piece felt a sense of elation that we belong to this “warrior race.” Honestly, I felt pride too, but it got me thinking and I questioned myself, is this all that there is to it? Is our destiny written in such a way that all we will ever be known as is a “warrior race”? Nothing wrong in that, I am sure, many communities would give an arm and a leg to be called so. But I guess we need to seriously ponder and reflect on where we stand as a community and how others perceive us.

The Mercenaries

There are a certain section of people who have this notion that all the Gorkhali’s were recruited by the British to fight against the “Indians”. Some of the so called “intelligentsia” based in Siliguri that are heading organizations such as Amra Bangali, Banga O Bangal Bhasha Bachao Samity, Jan Jagaran Mancha, Jan Chetna Mancha and many mainstream politicians etc have time and again claimed that the Gorkhali’s are nothing but “mercenaries”.

I wonder what these so called intellectuals would call the Jats or the Punjabis or the Marathas? If we go by the logic that those who were serving in the army under the British rule were “mercenaries”, then should the definition not extend to other regiments that were created by the British?

The very persons, who cite Jaliawala Bagh Massacre, as an example of Gorkhalis acting as mercenaries, forget to mention the role Indian Army played in Operation Blue Star in Punjab. Were the soldiers who obeyed the order to move into holiest of the holy Sikh religious shrine “mercenaries” as well? Or were they being good soldiers and obeying orders? It might be pointed out that The Indian Army stormed the Golden Temple on the night of 5 June under the command of Maj. Gen. Kuldip Singh Brar who was a Sikh himself. I am not saying that the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre is same as Operation Blue Star. However, the essence is the same; once you get an order in the army you follow it without question.

These people fail to understand that army men and woman are bound by something called discipline without which India would have disintegrated long ago. If it was not for the brave soldiers obeying orders, India would never have become the consolidated “India” as we know today.

The Foreigners

This same school of thought that calls our brave soldiers “mercenaries”, call us foreigners. Their logic is that while British captured rest of the geographical area that we today know as India, they could never capture Nepal, thus all the people who are of ethnically Nepali background are foreigners and do not have the same claim to India as those who were subdued by the British.

What these people fail to see and understand is that, people of Ethnically Nepali origin were living in Darjeeling before the British took over the piece of land that today is known as the Darjeeling hills, Terai and Duars. When we use the term Gorkhali in Indian context, it consists of people of Nepali, Sikkimeese, Bhutanese, Lepcha and people belonging to other Indo-Burman, Indo-Mongolic stock. These mixed stocks of people have an identity different from that of people from where they ethnically originated. Thus, to call Gorkhalis “foreigner,” not only shows gross misinterpretation of facts, but also shows ignorance and deliberate attempt to misread the history of the region.

It is to be understood that India as a consolidated nation was formed after 15th of August 1947, and there have been migration and immigration of people from various regions across India to various other regions: before, during and after the independence of our country. And each and every community has contributed to the formation of our great nation India in their own special way. What I fail to see is the fact that, even after 62 years of Independence, we the Gorkhalis are still considered foreigners by the so called “intelligentsia” based in Siliguri.

The Martyrs

As I have written before in this same column [An Ungrateful Nation], the contributions of Gorkhalis towards our nation building are immense. I would like to share a section of mail sent to me by my uncle [kaka] who retired as a JCO from 5/11 Gorkha Rifles, he sent us recently as an example….

“In earlier days, say immediately after independence, in 1948 Pak Muzzahudins had attacked Kashmir. At that time 5/11 GR was engaged to defend/ drive out the attackers from dominating features in Pir Panjal Range. They were air lifted from Eastern Sector (Assam) armed with bolt action 303 rifles. And they were able to not just resist the Muzzahudin onslaughts, but also sent back the Muzzahudins to where they came from.

In Kargil Sector all the dominating features were manned by Pak troops till 04 Dec 1971. They were in the habit of harassing Indian side by firing from Howitzer Guns, Mortars etc, whenever there were any larger concentration/ movement of vehicles along Srinagar – Leh Highway, thus damaging good amount of property including fatal cases. During 1971 Indo-Pak Conflict 2/11 GR was engaged to capture Pt 13620 and adjacent well fortified posts such as 11 Post, 12 Post (New Post), Black Rock, Brown Hills etc in the eastern side of River Shango and 5/3 GR (which was ordered to move to Kargil from Kiary, near Leh) to capture Hathi Matha, Bulbul and adjacent Posts in the western side of the river. The operation was successful in which Col R.B. Gurung, Maj Vetri Nathan (Posthumously) & Hav Phurba Lepcha ex 2/11 GR were awarded Vir Chakra among Sena Medals to others. There were 10/12 Battle Casualties (Supreme Sacrifices) reported from 2/11 GR in the whole operation. After cease fire we find ourselves constructing bunkers two more ridges beyond Pt 13620, thus giving permanent sigh of relief to the populace of Kargil Bazar and surrounding villages. In 1965, I heard a whole Brigade [not Gorkhali] was employed to capture the said dominating feature which was tactically very important but no success came to hand. Almost all the troops lost their life.

I believe that we have been able to add a good area of land into the Indian frontiers as well as given a permanent solace to the Govt. from frequent harassments and economical loss due to such firings. And, similar success in various sectors by other Gorkha Battalions also. If such areas are added it would be far larger area as compared to that of Gorkhaland. Such are the contributions of the Gorkhas.”

He sent us this mail, recently to remind us why we need to feel offended when some two penny politician wannabe calls our brave soldiers “mercenaries” and us “foreigners”.

There are numerous such stories or bravery and sacrifice, and we are proud of our history, but honestly I strongly feel that we need to move beyond being the sacrificial lambs [No offence to the bravest of the brave martyrs]. Where we the Gorkhalis see pride and honor, others see monetary and economic benefit, where we the Gorkhalis see sacrifice and martyrdom others see mercenary.

India as a nation needs to understand that we have tilled our motherland with our blood and sacrifices and if the land could talk, perhaps she would call us her favorite sons and daughters.

There are many who cite the contribution of their community in Indian freedom struggle, while refusing to acknowledge the contributions of Gorkhali greats such as Saheed Durga Malla, Capt. Ram Singh Thakuri etc.

There are many who cite the past sacrifices and lay claim to the present and the future, while indignantly refusing to acknowledge our current sacrifices and the price of freedom our community has paid time and again.

Perhaps it is time for us to move ahead and write a new destiny for ourselves.

Finally, I leave you all with the lyrics from the song “Ragat” written by Mr. Sudarshan Tamang, “Ragat Bagaune chahana cchaina, Aba bireko bahana hoina… Bathoharu mukhaile ladcchan, Kranti vaye sojha nai marcchan… Bhir vayera panita payau ke, Anshu shivay aru ke… Shanjha ho sansar sabko…feri kina ladai.. Baru malai kayarai bhana, Purkha ko harnai bhana… Hingsha garne chahana cchaina, Manauta ko kina mol cchaina”

Hope! I made some sense


Handle with care

In a world where Global positioning system (GPS) can locate the coordinates of an individual or thing exactly, the doom of Gorkhaland movement seems to have gone out of range, at least from a common man’s perception. The veteran players of kolkata who have had nullified several uprisings in their respective political carrier have been successful to punctuate supposedly the ‘last fight’ of Gorkhas too, which some might argue was done under various pretexts. The course of the non-violent movement as asserted by GJMM is inside inverted commas now with holdup of second tripartite meet which was “promised” by state government to be held in last weeks of November. Ironically, the initial tone of agitation had been relaxed to make environment “conducive” for the tripartite talk on honorable Governor’s request. Now, with no sign of parley, at least from state government, the relaxation seems to have proved a mere mockery of GJMM’s acknowledgment to honorable governor. Whether or not peace or rather silent is permanent; whether or not this will weaken the movement or aggravate it beyond one’s willful control; whether or not this will solve the crisis or dent it irreversibly making more uncompromising-it is hard to conjecture given the fact that CPIM government has little influence in Darjeeling hills.

With reports of clashes here and there the harbinger of movement taking ugly turn has already become lucid. Moreover, with opposition parties of the state looking for opportunities to pounce, the CPIM led state government will be duly held responsible for any unwanted incident in near future and rightly so.

When the movement was at a feverish high a few months ago, the announcement of the first tripartite meet came but it was subjected to no pre-condition from GJMM for obvious reason. In hind sight, as things stand now, it seems the purpose of the meeting was just to sever the momentum of the movement rather than to commiserate Gorkhas standoff for identity.

The most worrying truth is that whenever Gorkhas demand separate state, some of the “pressure” groups knowingly or unknowingly make it a Bengali vs. Gorkhali issue in a country where innocent people are often seen running for covers when one of such differences in ideology, religion, faith, region, language and party take explosive forms. The last thing Gorkhas expect from them is to tell that the movement has Nepal connection or was financed by “external” force or something comical.

I am not sure if these kinds of vote-based policies will get a lot of support in the long run within the state too as after Mumbai incidence  the nation has started substantiate a strong message: “public sab janti hai” (people know everything) against those who play partisan politics. With a sizeable mass of rational Bengali individuals unequivocally taking Gorkhas side time and again, the very stance of CPIM government on Gorkhaland issue is under a scanner.

Now, amidst all the strategies that are being formulated in writer’s building to curtail the constitutional demand of Gorkhas by giving it biased names or trying to paint it with communal colors, a compelling question looms large: How long can someone take ride on falsehood? How long can someone treat the symptoms (read as greater autonomy) instead of disease (read as Gorkhaland)? Time has come to see beyond party and community. Time has come to confront Gorkhas problems head on without strategies or gambles. Time has come to take on Gorkhaland movement with open heart and honest mind without giving it false names: division of Bengal or greater Nepal.  Time has come to call a spade what it is before it is too late.

The need of the hour is to stand by what is printed just below the national emblem: truth alone triumphs.

Sudarshan Tamang

GJM forces shutdown in Hills; Fake job agency: 6 held

By Various Sources on December 10th,2008


GJM forces shutdown in Hills    

Kolkata The call by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha(GJM) to shutdown all government offices and development work in Darjeeling has met with almost total response, district administration officials said. The GJM’s diktat, which came into effect from Monday, has excluded only essential services and the ongoing revision of electoral rolls carried out by the district electoral officer.

On Tuesday, Darjeeling Superintendent of Police Rahul Srivastav said: “No untoward incident has been reported so far. A few departments of the district magistrate’s office, dealing with election-related work, are open. But most government employees have kept away from offices. We are monitoring the situation closely.”

The district administration and the state government have decided to adopt a non-confrontationist stance with the Morcha. A senior official, however, said: “If the people does not want the administration to function, the government has no option but to bow to their wishes.” He also admitted that frequent shutdowns are affecting development work and functioning of the district administration.

GJM spokesperson Binay Tamang said the party will announce the second phase of its agitation to press for its demand of a separate Gorkhaland on January 7.

“The Morcha will hold a series of rallies from December 17 in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Siliguri and Dooars,” he added. The second round of tripartite talks among the GJM, state and Centre is expected to be held in December.

The shutdown, which also extends to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council offices, has affected work at Teesta Low Dam Projects executed by the NHPC at Kalijhora (Kurseong sub-division) and Reang (Kalimpong). The 160 MW Kalijhora project is in its fourth stage and is expected to be completed by August 2010. The 132 MW Reang project is in its third stage and should be commissioned by December 2009. The projects are worth Rs 1,000 crore each.

While government buses were stopped at several locations, the offices of insurance, health and fire brigade departments remained open as per the GJM’s diktat.

The shutdown extends to rural and cooperative banks but other banks will remain open, as would courts.

Electricity, water supply and civic bodies in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimp-ong are functioning partially, said a official.

Morcha relief for census class

Siliguri, Dec. 9: Supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today did not oppose the training programme of foresters and NGO representatives for the tiger census in Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. The day-long training was held at the Nature Interpretation Centre of the forest department in Sukna.

The foresters kept their fingers crossed over the scheduled training programme after the Morcha called an indefinite strike in all state government offices, including those of the forest department in Sukna, since yesterday.

“However, there was not the slightest hitch in conducting the training,” said Sumita Ghatak, the divisional forest officer (wildlife-I). “The participants, comprising our employees, officials, representatives of different NGOs and a number of clubs from Sukna, assembled at the conference hall. Experts also arrived and spoke in detail about the five-day tiger census slated to begin December 18.”

Yesterday, the Morcha supporters had put up party flags on the closed gates of the forest offices including the centre in Sukna, prompting the employees to stay away from their workplace.

Animesh Bose, an environmentalist who was present at the training, said the department had readied 91 pug impression pads in the sanctuary spread over 161sqkm. The pads are squared shaped areas, where the soil is loosened and debris are cleared to ensure that the pug marks fall on them whenever a tiger walks in. Once a pug mark is found, it is recorded then erased and the loosened soil is levelled.

“We will also search for pug marks in general, faeces, scratches and claw marks of tigers on trees and on ground during the census,” he said. Forty-three teams, comprising five to eight members each, will be engaged at the census in which representatives of around 10 NGOs will also take part.

“Apart from our employees, the officials and staff members of Kurseong, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Baikunthapur divisions will also be engaged in the census,” the DFO said.

Although the training ended without any opposition from the Morcha, other government offices remained closed in Sukna during the day. North Bengal State Transport Corporation buses were also off the roads.

“Around seven-eight of our buses ply in the hills, but the services have stopped since yesterday,” said Uttam Gan, the NBSTC’s divisional manager of Siliguri. “We are incurring a loss of around Rs 25,000 per day.”
The Morcha leaders in Sukna could not be contacted.

Permit glare on job agency, six held
Darjeeling, Dec. 9: Six persons were arrested for allegedly running an international placement agency without valid permission.

Mendo Yolmo, Norden Yolmo, Francis Matthew, Rupen Tshering Lepcha, Hemant Pradhan and Deepa Subba, — all in the age group of 20-25 years — were picked up from a local hotel when they were about to conduct a recruitment drive for jobs in West Asia.

While the Yolmos used to operate the agency M&N Resources from their residence in Beechwood here, Matthew was working from Bahrain. Hemanth and Deepa, a couple, were based in Dubai. It was not yet ascertained where did Lepcha live.

“We received a complaint from the Calcutta office of the Protector of Emigrants, a Central government undertaking under the Union ministry of overseas Indian affairs, saying that this agency did not have the valid licence to conduct the business,” a police official said.

Following the complaint sent to the superintendent of police of Darjeeling, the law enforcers raided the hotel where the recruitment drive was being conducted, the official said.

All manpower agencies recruiting people for jobs abroad must obtain a registration from the overseas Indian affairs ministry according to the Section 10 and 16 of the Indian Immigration Act.

Although, the police did not receive any particular complaint against the agency or the six accused, the fact that they were conducting the business without a licence was enough to make their trade “illegal”, the official said. “We have come to understand that some one from Kurseong had approached the Protector of Emigrants officials alleging that the agency was running illegally.” The accused were charging Rs 80,000 from a person for getting a job in West Asia.

The six accused were booked under Section 420 (cheating and dishonesty) and Section 406 (criminal breach of trust) of the IPC. They are likely to be produced in court tomorrow.

The sources said Matthew and the Dubai-based couple did not have any placement agencies in the countries where they lived but were working as free agents for various job agencies in West Asia.

Fake job agency: 6 held

DARJEELING, Dec. 9: The police today nabbed six people for allegedly operating a bogus recruitment company in Darjeeling. A complaint from the Protector of Immigrants office of the Ministry of Overseas Affair, Kolkata branch to the SP Darjeeling sought immediate action against the allegedly unregistered manpower agency. “The company is functioning without valid documents and hence violates the Sections 10 and 16 of the Indian Immigration Act,” said Inspector-in-Charge, Darjeeling Sadar police station, Mr NT Sherpa. “The Sections 10 and 16 do not allow any company or individual to recruit people for overseas jobs without a certification from the Centre or state government,” the official added. This is the second case of fraud related to overseas placement within a span of one month in the Hills. Recently, a Delhi police team arrived in Kalimpong and arrested AIGL’s youth leader Mr Pratap Khati allegedly for duping people of a large sum of money in association with a Delhi-based placement agency. Today, police arrested the two agents ~ Mr Mendo Yolmo and Mr Norden Yolmo, along with their four employees while they were conducting recruitment interviews at a Darjeeling hotel. The company charged Rs 80,000 from each individual and farmed out recruits to places like Dubai and Bahrain. n SNS

Tribals to call for 24-hour bandh tomorrow

SILIGURI, Dec. 9: Agitation against the state forest official’s alleged torching of adivasi huts at Birsamunda Basti under Malbazar police station in the Dooars on 4 December is spiralling fast with the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad (ABAVP) now calling a 24-hour Dooars bandh on Thursday, 11 December.

The shutdown has been convened demanding an immediate arrest of the forest beat officer concerned Mr Maite Biswakarma and his team, who had allegedly carried out the torching. The adivasis are also demanding adequate monetary compensation for the victim families. The ABAVP has also announced protest rallies across the Dooars at 2 p.m. tomorrow, laying siege to the forest offices there on 12 and 13 December and an indefinite Dooars-Terai shutdown from 15 December.

“What the state forest officials did at the Birsamunda Basti is nothing less than terrorism and until and unless the perpetrators are brought to book, the agitation would only get intensified in a way that Dooars might not have witnessed ever before,” said the ABAVP Doors-Terai coordination committee secretary, Mr Rajesh Lakra. Tea estates and educational institutes have been kept out of purview of the 11 December bandh.

Meanwhile, with the agitation getting intensified, Jalpaiguri district magistrate Mrs Vandana Yadav has convened an emergency meeting of the forest and police officials concerned at the collectorate tomorrow. “We would discuss if a compensation package can be worked out for the victims either by the forest department or the civil administration, while so far as arresting the accused forest officials is concerned, the police are already into the investigation and would take action on the basis of the findings,” Mrs Yadav said.

The DM also informed to have briefed the chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharya on the issue during his Siliguri visit last Sunday. “The CM has categorically asked us to conduct a thorough probe into allegations and take stern action against the officials, if found guilty,” Mrs Yadav said. A team of the block land and land reforms officials that visited the disputed site yesterday to ascertain the ownership of the land is expected to submit its report to the police tomorrow, Malbazar SDPO Ms Nikita Fonning informed.

The ADM Jalpaiguri Mr NG Hira visited the Birsamunda Basti today and initiated the distribution of tarpaulin sheets, garments and food grains as relief among the victim families. The dispute at the Birsamunda Basti erupted on 4 December, when the local forest officials while conducting an eviction drive allegedly burnt down 17 hutments there. The forest officials have however, categorically denied the allegation and claim that they only demolished six hutments, which were built on encroached forestland.
“The area is a resume forestland under the Gorubathan beat and was encroached upon by labourers from the adjacent Minglass TE, where we carried out the eviction. But our officials did not torch any hutment and we are ready to face any sort of probe,” said the Kalimpong divisional forest manager Mr Omprakash.

Christians in Hills pray for peace

DARJEELING, Dec. 9: Christmas in the Darjeeling Hills and Sikkim will be a low-key affair this year in memory of the Mumbai terror attack victims and persecuted Christians in Orissa.  

The decision was taken at an emergency meeting of the Darjeeling-Kurseong Christian Minority Society chaired by Bishop Stephen Lepcha, Roman Catholic Bishop for Darjeeling-Sikkim Diocese. “The terrorist attacks on Mumbai and atrocities on Christians in Orissa go against the picture of a united India. They also point out the deprivation of human rights in the country,” said Diocesan spokesperson, Fr Alex Gurung, condemning the incidents. The Christmas festivity would be sober and the entire community would engage in prayers and sacrifice rather than fun. “We can at least ease their sorrow and trauma through our prayers and moral support,” Fr Gurung said.

Everybody will spare some amount from their Christmas celebration budget to contribute to a fund for the Orissa victims. “The total amount collected through sacrifice would be sent to Orissa,” he added. n SNS


From various sources
Tripartite talks: Cong calls for a fixed date
Statesman News Service

SILIGURI, Dec. 5: The state Congress leadership today asked the state government to fix a date for the next round of tripartite dialogue on the Darjeeling tangle in consultation with the Centre. Senior state Congress leaders Mr Pradip Bhattacharya and Mr Manas Bhunia said that everything should not be left on the Centre. “The state government’s role in this matter is paramount as the tripartite talks idea is a state government conjecture,” they said. Meanwhile, The Darjeeling Congress MP Mr Dawa Narbula, said that he had no idea whether the next round of talks would be held during the remainder of the present UPA government’s tenure or not.

Taking umbrage at the Left Front’s penchant to hold the Centre responsible for the delay in the second round of talks, Mr Pradip Bhattacharya said that throwing the ball in the Centre’s court would not serve any purpose. “The state government should realise that its responsibility in the matter is greater than that of the Centre as the tripartite talks is the former’s conjecture,” he said.

He further claimed that the Centre had merely accepted the proposal put forward by the state chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. “The Centre has neither accepted nor rejected the Gorkhaland demand. It has taken initiative to resolve the tangle through dialogue as the state government was apparently bungling with the matter,” he said.

Another senior Congress leader Dr Manas Bhunia said that his party was committed to break the prolonged impasse in the hills. “The Congress led UPA government has offered its good office to start dialogue when the situation seemed to be turning from bad to worse due to rigidity on both sides,” he commented.

Meanwhile, the Congress MP from Darjeeling Mr Dawa Narbula said that he had no idea whatsoever when the next round of tripartite talks would be held. “The matter is to be decided upon by the three parties concerned. I, for one, am in no way connected with the decision making process,” he said.

Asked whether the next round would at all be held in course of the remainder of the UPA government’s present tenure Mr Narbula said that he had no idea. “I can only say that my party is looking forward to the dialogue as it is the only means to evolve an enduring solution to the deepening ethno-political problem in the hills,” Mr Narbula remarked.

Tamang’s plea

DARJEELING, Dec. 5: The All India Gorkha League president Mr Madan Tamang has urged the Left Front to officially adopt a resolution in the Bidhan Sabha for the withdrawal of the Sixth Schedule Bill for Darjeeling from Parliament.

This development comes after the Left Front constituents suggested that pull out of Sixth Schedule Bill is not a problem for them as long as it settles the imbroglio in the Hills. “If they are sincere they should officially adopt a resolution at the Legislative Assembly. We can move on with Gorkhaland demand only if the Sixth Schedule Bill is withdrawn. This can prove a victory for us,” Mr Tamang said today. n SNS

Cop tabs on hill SIMs
– Darjeeling police to collect documents on regular basis OUR CORRESPONDENT – The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Dec. 5: Darjeeling police have decided to keep tabs on SIM card applications by collecting all relevant documents from mobile phone service providers on a regular basis.

As of now, documents related to customers’ identification and proof of permanent address remain in the custody of the service providers. The police ask for them only when they require them for investigation.

A.K. Chaturvedi, the additional superintendent of police of Darjeeling, who held a meeting with the service providers at the Sadar police station here, said: “We will now collect the documents and the photographs from various service providers on a daily basis. A formal letter will also be sent to them.”
Currently, there are seven service providers operating in the hills. “On an average, they sell about 600 SIM cards daily,” said Narayan Goenka, a SIM card distributor of a service provider.

Customers will now have to submit two sets of passport-size photographs and documents while procuring SIM cards. Not only that, they will also have to keep a photocopy of the application for a cellular connection.

“The documents and the photographs can be submitted at the respective police stations as well,” said Chaturvedi.

This means a retail shop selling SIM cards in a place like Sonada can submit the customer’s details to the local police station.

Goenka, whose company that has about 100-odd retail outlets in the hills, said: “At the moment, the SIM is activated through a text message. Once activated, we wait for 48 hours for the documents to reach us from the retail shop. If the documents do not arrive within the stipulated time, we disconnect the lines.”
“We have asked the police for time as we need to inform our company. The new system will be ready by Monday,” said Goenka.

A senior police official today confirmed that his department had received a note from the ministry of home affairs that Darjeeling, too, was on the radar of possible terrorist strike.

This afternoon, the police made an announcement over the public address system asking hoteliers, taxi drivers and the people at large to immediately inform the men in khaki of any suspicious elements that came to their notice.


Cell phone: Cops want customer credentials
Statesman News Service

DARJEELING, Dec. 5: Upgrading security measures, Darjeeling police today urged cell phone service providers to provide them with a copy of customers’ credentials henceforth.

Security has been tightened in the Hills ever since Intelligence reports suggested that it was among five locations under threat of possible terrorist attacks. Moreover, it has been discovered that three SIMs used by terrorists in the recent Mumbai attacks were procured from West Bengal.

“It is mandatory in other states to provide the police with details of persons obtaining cell connection. This has so far not been implemented in West Bengal. Considering the present threat we request you to provide us with a photocopy of the customers’ voter ID and forms containing their particulars,” said ASP Darjeeling, Mr AK Chaturvedi addressing mobile connection operators today.

For now, the police would issue formal requests to the operators but would hold another meeting with the higher authorities of the telecom companies soon on the matter. About 600 new connections are issued by the cell phone service providers daily in the Darjeeling sub-division alone.

“Normally, a customer provides us with a passport photo, a copy of his/her voter’s ID or ration card. They fill up their particulars in the form that we provide them. From now, they will have to give us two photos and two copies of voter’s ID. In addition to that, they will also have to photocopy the form which we will submit to the police,” said Aircel service provider, Mr Narayan Goenka.

State govt to extend aid to closed Pubong tea estate workers
Statesman News Service

DARJEELING, Dec. 5: The West Bengal government has certified the workers of the locked Chotta Pubong Tea Estate for economic aid through the Financial Assistance to Workers in Locked Out Industrial units, a Central scheme.

The scheme is entitled for industrial units that remain locked out or closed for more than a year. The units should have been in operation for more than five years prior to such closure. Among the 87 Darjeeling hill tea plantations the Pubong and Ringtang remain closed. The state labour department has decided to procure aid for the two tea plantations. While the aid for Ringtang is in process, the department has received a confirmation for workers of Pubong.

“Pubong is liable for the scheme effectively from 1 October this year. But first we will carry out a verification process through application forms distributed from our office in order to determine if the workers satisfy the specified criteria of the scheme,” labour department official, Mr BS Chettri informed today. Each worker will receive a monthly remuneration of Rs 750 through the scheme. However, they will have to be regular workers employed for at least one year in the plantation and less than 58 years of age as on the date of application. Pubong was closed last year in May after the management abandoned the plantation. “The management abandoned the plantation on 7 May, 2007 without formally informing the unions of their act or the duration of the closure,” said Mr KB Subba, general secretary, Darjeeling Terai Dooars Chia Kaman Mazdoor Union.

“The more than 500 workers had several months’ salary pending. Moreover, their Provident Fund amounting to Rs. 92.92 lakhs was not paid. We complained to the Provident Fund Commission, the DM and the labour commissioner. A case has been registered and is in progress,” Mr Subba said.

Forest officials burn down dwellings
Statesman News Service

SILIGURI, Dec. 5: The state forest officials from the Kalimpong forest division have allegedly torched down 10 hutment at the Birsamunda Basti under Rangamati gram panchayat in Malbazar police station area yesterday noon triggering much tension in the locality.

The department however, has refuted the allegation and claimed that it only demolished a few illegal hutment, which were constructed on encroached forest-land. The area falls in the Sakam beat under the Neora range of the Kalimpong forest division but is within the administrative jurisdiction of Jalpaiguri district. The concerned basti is located adjacent to the Minglass Tea Estate and some of the locals work at the plantation, the police said.
The victim hutment owners said that they were residing there for years now and the forest officials suddenly forayed into their locality yesterday noon and torched down the dwellings. One of the victims, Mr Dilip Ram, today lodged an FIR with the Malbazar police station on behalf of the villagers.

As tension spread in the area following the incident, the SDPO Malbazar Ms Nikita Fonning rushed to the area toady and took stock of the situation. “The situation is calm now but both the forest department and the basti dwellers are making contradictory claims about the ownership of the land. We have initiated an investigation into the matter and would take help of the block land reforms department records to ascertain the real owner,” she said.

The SDPO however, said that even if the land belonged to the forest department, the officials should not have burnt the hutment ~ as is being alleged. Ms Fonning also clarified that the foresters did not inform the local police before initiating the eviction drive.

Buddha to address AIKS rally today

SILIGURI, Dec. 5: The CPI-M peasants wing, the All India Kishan Sabha (AIKS) has failed to hold its formal block level conventions in the Darjeeling hills this time due to the ongoing political turmoil there over the demand for a separate state.

The chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is scheduled to address the open rally of the AIKS’s 24th Darjeeling district conference at Phansidewa tomorrow, which however, is suppose to be the culmination of the block level conventions across the districts.

According to the AIKS Darjeeling district secretary Mr Anil Saha, the farmers body could not hold the formal block conventions in the three hill subdivisions of Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling as the situation was “not conducive” there.

“But in order to meet the organisational discipline, we somehow have managed to hold the hill conventions secretly, almost like an underground party,” Mr Saha claimed.

The AIKS leader further claimed that around 80-90 delegates from the hills would take part in the district conference at Phansidewa tomorrow, even as the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha imposed “political monopoly” was still in place.

According to the AIKS sources, the peasants wing’s district conference is held once in every three years and the block level conventions are an integral part of that. n sns


DYFI urges simple ways of certificate procurement
Statesman News Service

SILIGURI, Dec. 5: The DYFI has demanded simplification in the issuance of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe certificates. The organisation served a deputation to the Siliguri SDO in this connection today.

Mr Shankar Ghosh, the secretary, DYFI, Darjeeling district, said that his organisation had been trying for long to impress upon the district administration of the need of simplifying the certificate issuance process. “The existing procedure involving collection of certificates from the SC-ST development office in Siliguri is proving a harassment for the SC-ST people. Yet, the certificates are a must for those who aspire for government and other jobs. Tribal youths having just passed from schools and colleges are having several problems in collecting the certificates,” he said.

The DYFI leader further said that the certificate collection process must be simplified so that the SC/ST youths could procure those from the respective BDO or the panchayat offices.

“This apart, we demand that the surplus land remaining unused in the tea plantations be utilised to generate employment for the educated youths residing in the tea plantations,” the DYFI leader said.


Is Nepal hijacking Indian Idol?
The Times of India

KATHMANDU: When the third edition of Indian Idol 3 ended last year with Prashant Tamang beating his rival Amit Paul, the victory was due to the

overwhelming votes that the Darjeeling boy received. Contributing generously to the votes were Tamang’s fans from Nepal who collected funds to send SMSes in his support, at times crossing over into India to vote for their favourite.

Though at least two of the judges – Alisha Chinoy and Javed Akhtar – felt Paul was the better singer, they both had to agree that the final decision was left to the voice of the people.

This year, as Indian Idol 4 is in full swing, is the public voice from Nepal out to swamp the Indian voice?

For the first time in the history of the contest, a mobile telephone company from Nepal has tied up with a publishing company to enable people from Nepal to vote directly from Nepal.

“When Prashant Tamang became the Indian Idol last year … the people of Nepal had a big hand in Prashant’s win,” announced the local Himalayan Times daily Friday whose publishers International Media Network Nepal Private Ltd has started a scheme with Mero Mobile, Nepal’s sole private mobile phone services provider that was promoted three years ago by deposed king Gyanendra’s son-in-law, to enable direct SMS voting from Nepal.

“This year, Nepali fans of Indian Idol need not go to all this trouble to vote for the next Indian Idol,” the announcement said, referring to the border-crossings. Instead, those wanting to vote can use a Mero Mobile number from Nepal 12 hours daily from Friday to Saturday.

Last year, the enterprising pair had conducted a trial run, which consisted of asking people to predict the winner and win prizes. The direct vote offer comes following the fan frenzy created by Prashant. This year too, there is a contender of Nepali origin among the 14 finalists – Kapil Thapa, the army man from Dehra Dun, and the obvious strategy is to bank on the fan following he might arouse in Nepal.

The question is, can or should the Indian Idol be decided by Nepal? Would America accept the results if Nepalis managed to vote from Nepal or raised funds to abet a Nepali-origin contestant’s victory in American Idols? For that matter, would Nepalis accept it peaceably if Indians vote during the Nepali editions of the Idol in Nepal and push the winner they want?

SMS voting is a bad yardstick due to its sheer anonymity. Perhaps it is time the organisers of Indian Idol give it some thought and lay down guidelines.


Why Chattrey is still behind bars?



Why Chattrey is still behind bars?
Mr. D.B.Rai ‘anoop’

The Gorkhaland movement led by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJMM) has completed a year. Similarly, Chattrey Subba and his five fellows have completed nearly 7 years term imprisoning in jail for their conscience: Gorkhaland, a homeland for Gorkha in India. Earlier, Chattrey Subba, a rebel leader of Darjeeling Hill and the staunch supporter of Gorkhaland movement was the lieutenant of Subash Ghising, the former chairman of DGHC as well as the president of Gorkha National Liberation Front during Gorkhaland movement in 80’s.

 A former soldier of Indian Army Medical Corps (AMC), Chattrey Subba was born at Joredhara, near Rausey Bazar,Kalimpong(Darjeeling) in 1945. Due to economic condition of his family he couldn’t pursue higher education and had to satisfy with secondary education from Scottish University of Missionary Institute (SUMI), Kalimpong. According to his immediate family member, he was mostly influenced in politics by the writings of Ramkrishna Sharma, a retired judge of Calcutta High Court and veteran critic of Nepali literature.

Soon Chattrey resigned his job in 1983 and joined Gorkhaland movement. Having seen his loyalty and courage Ghising made him his lieutenant and Chief of Gorkha Volunteer Cell (GVC), a fighter organization of GNLF.

But the loyalty of Chattrey did not remain long to Ghising. In 1988 when Subash Ghising was agreed to accept Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, he protested the agreement. It was the heyday of GNLF in Darjeeling. But he immediately left the party. After spending some years in hibernation, he floated an organization Gorkha Liberation Organization to lead the Gorkhaland movement. When the councilors were completely indulged in corruption embezzling the money of DGHC, Chattrey issued ultimatum in 2000 to them to quit their posts. The news spread like wildfire.

After that Chattrey came in limelight in Tinkatarey incident’ that occurred in Samsing under Kalimpong sub division. The incident was the cross firing between GLO and Bengal police.

He again came in news in 10 February 2008 when Subash Ghising, the then chairman of DGHC was going to Darjeeling via Saath Ghumti, Kurseong after a meeting in Delhi with Central leaders regarding the up gradation of DGHC. One police in escort shot dead but Ghising escaped unhurt with minor injury.

Ultimately West Bengal Government and Subash Ghising got the excuse to tame Chattrey Subba so that the rebel voice of Gorkha could be muffled. Immediately police registered case against 18 persons including Chattrey Subba. During seven years some of them got acquitted and some got bail, but the fate of these five people, Saran Dewan(Kurseong), Gunjoy Lama(Kurseong),Kumar Chettry(Chitrey),Shyam Karki(Melli),Bijoy Chettri(Kalimpong) and Chattrey Subba , is still stuck in limbo.

It was crystal clear Chattrey Subba was imprisoned by West Bengal government to make Ghising happy so that Ghising can’t go against state government like demanding of Gorkhaland movement. Perhaps, Chattrey and his associates were also sure that during the regime of Ghising they would not have had any chance to be released from jail, other than getting bail from court.

But judiciary did not become in favour of Chattrey as more than three years has become the judicial trial of Chattrey is going on very lackadaisically ; Sometimes for a year  the trail is held up and sometimes witnesses do not attend and court also does not serve them any notice.
However, a ray of hope appeared before them when GJMM overturned the power of Ghising. The Hill people who were ruled by iron hand by Ghising for more than 20 years also overjoyed of their new found freedom.

But the ray of hope, releasing from jail, of Chattrey subba and his associates can’t be going real. Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxist (CPRM) thinks the release of Chattrey Subba is totally a political issue and should be dealt with political pressure on state government directly. Therefore, CPRM youth wing, DRYFI sit in a Dharna before Writers also and called Hill strike in August demanding the immediate release of Chattrey. Whereas GJMM thinks the imprisonment of Chattrey is purely judiciary business. GJMM Chief Bimal Gurung often clarifies saying that GJMM has employ advocates to defend Chattrey in the case.

However, not only CPRM, now national party and the main opposition of West Bengal Trinamool Congress has also come forward asking the release of Chattrey Subba. Mr. Kalyan Chakraborty, Darjeeling district president, says the imprisonment of Chattrey is nothing but the political vindictiveness of Left Front Government.

There is also the view the reason behind not supporting the release of Chattrey by GJMM in political way is Chattrey will hijack the movement after his release and they will be overlapped.

In fact, the release of Chattrey would be one of the achievements in the list of GJMM achievements. GJMM, therefore, should not hesitate for the release of Chattrey. Rather Chattrey should be grateful to GJMM for his release since he would not have been freed, if GJMM had not done the movement. Besides, another important thing is the freedom of Chatrey is not the case of Chattrey’s family only but is interlinked with the cause of whole Gorkha people. Bengal government has put Chattrey alone behind the bar, but this is also an attempt to imprison the long cherished dream of ten million Gorkhas: Gorkahland. So, it is time not to play blame game each other but the political parties of Hill should take steps of releasing Chattrey both from Judiciary and political part without being prejudiced. Only this can free Chattrey

Sl. No.    Name of detainee    Arrested on    Resident of     Status as of now    occupation    
1    Omraj Kotwal    12/02/01    Dulaljote,Naxalabari    Granted bail,accuited    –    
2    Bijay Chettri    15/02/01    Kalimpong Bazar    Under trail prisoner    business    
3    Kumar Chettri    15/02/01    Kalijhora kalimpong    Under trail prisoner    Petty contractor    
4    Shyam karki    15/02/01    Melli, Kalimpong    Under trail prisoner    GREFF employee    
5    Saran Dewan    04/03/01    Singell T.E, Kurseong    Undertrail prisoner    Ex.GNLF leader    
6    Arjun Lama    04/03/01    Singell T.E,Kurseong    Granted bail,aquitted    Ex. GNLF cader    
7    Gunjoy Lama    17/03/01    Dhobikhola, kurseong    Undertrail prisoner,    Lodge owner    
8    Amar Lama    22/03/01    Darjeeling    Granted bail,acquitted    Lawyer, presently GJMM central leader    
9    Norden Lama    22/03/01    Kalimpong Bazar    Granted bail, trail going on    Vice chairman of Kalimpong municipality    
10    Chatra Bahadur Subba@Chhatrey Subba    24/03/01    Kalimpong Bazar    Under trail prisoner    Ex-servicemen,Ex.GNLF leader    
11    Kamal Giri    05/04/01    Phari Samsing    Granted bail,accquited    contractor    
12    Hemanta Chetri    05/04/01    Paren,Jholung    Granted bail, accquited    teacher    
13    Mohan kr. sharma    –    Darjeeling    Granted bail,acquitted    Govet school teacher    
14    Dimple Dewan    –    Gurung Busty,Siliguri    Granted bail,acquitted    housewife    
15    Bijoy Dewan    –    Siliguri    Gratned bail    –    
16    Deben Gurung    –    Maneydara , Mirik    –    –    
17    Chiten Sherpa    –    Manehbhanjyang-Sukiapokhari    –    –            
18    Kumar Chettri    –    Nagrakatta,Dooars    –    –            
 Data Source:http://freechattrey.cwahi.net/

(The writer is the editor of http://www.himalayanreporter.com)

AIGL disputes GJMM claim

from various sources


DARJEELING, Dec. 3: All India Gorkhaland League president Mr Madan Tamang today said that the Sixth Schedule Bill still pending in Parliament contrary to what the GJMM’s had claimed earlier. Mr Tamang said that he has a letter from the Rajya Sabha’s Right to Information (RTI) cell with him to substantiate his claim.

The AIGL has got hold of a reply of an RTI application enquiring the status of the Sixth Schedule Bill to be implemented in the Hills. “This has confirmed my doubt that the Special Status Bill is still alive and ready to be enforced any moment. Therefore, all Hill parties should unite to do away with it once and for all. Only then can we move the statehood demand forward,” Mr Tamang said.

The letter bearing number RS/2(1330/2008-RTI cell from the director and Central public information officer (CPIO) Mr Deepak Goyal of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat clearly states” “The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution (Amendment) and the Constitution (117 Amendment) Bill are still pending in the Rajya Sabha.”

Mr Tamang accused Hill parties of “vote politics” by trying to take the credit of stalling the Bill before the people. “A notice from a Supreme Court lawyer to the Home Ministry had stayed the Bill then but otherwise, the Standing Committee chairperson Mrs Sushma Swaraj had passed it. Hill parties should make this fact public while there is still time or they would be playing with fire,” he cautioned. The AIGL still awaits another RTI reply from the DGHC administrator Mr BL Meena regarding the allotment and utilisation of funds to the Council. The party will meet the Darjeeling district magistrate Mr Surendra Gupta and the principal secretary, DGHC on Monday. “The mandated period of 45 days is over. There is a provision of a reminder, which we would serve to Mr Meena. If he still fails to provide the details we will take legal action,” Mr Tamang said.

Incidentally, all DGHC offices and development work under it have remained indefinitely closed as per GJMM president Mr Bimal Gurung’s directive since 9 November claiming that tenders and contract bids were distracting the youth from the Gorkhaland movement.

Remove-bill alert from Tamang

Darjeeling, Dec. 3: Madan Tamang today brought back the bogey of the Sixth Schedule status and appealed to all political parties to work towards withdrawing the bill from Parliament before pressing for Gorkhaland.

The ABGL president’s statement follows a reply by the Rajya Sabha secretariat that the Sixth Schedule Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2007 and the Constitutional (107th amendment) Bill 2007 are still pending in the Upper House.

“The reply was given on November 7. It was in response to a query made under the RTI (Right to Information) Act. Till the bill remains pending in Parliament, we cannot move ahead with the Gorkhaland demand,” said Tamang.

“I will write to all the political parties tomorrow, telling them that they should work towards withdrawing the bill first. It may be a major hurdle in demanding Gorkhaland. I will also circulate the copy of the reply among the people for they have the right to know the fact,” said Tamang.

The ABGL leader was critical of the BJP and the Congress. He said both parties are claiming that the Sixth Schedule bill had been stalled keeping in mind the next general elections.

“G.S. Yonzone of the BJP and even the Congress are now claiming that they had a hand in stalling the bill. The fact is that it has not been stalled (only shelved). Even the standing committee on home affairs that scrutinised the bill had said it would be passed after taking into consideration the ground realities,” said Tamang. “The BJP must stop telling lies.”

“I want the hill parties to first extract an assurance from the Union home ministry that the bill will be withdrawn immediately. Unless we receive such an assurance, the Gorkhaland talks cannot be fruitful,” said Tamang.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which is currently spearheading the Gorkhaland movement, had said the bill was in the “dustbin” and that the hills would not accept the Sixth Schedule status. “Claiming that a bill is in the dustbin and withdrawing it from Parliament are two different things,” said Tamang.

The ABGL leader also said many parties were preparing to accept the special status in the near future.

“I have heard that a new name like Gorkhaland Territorial Council for the proposed set-up under the Sixth Schedule is being thought of. If we accept such a status, it will mean that we are willing to stay within Bengal and this will be a great betrayal for the hills, which wants a separate state,” said Tamang.