Darjeeling, Aug 18: In a change of strategy, the Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee (GJAC) Sunday urged people in Darjeeling hills to hit the streets for four days beginning Tuesday, threatened an economic blockade and said it would petition Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders to realise its demand.
Two days after the newly-formed GJAC announced a five-day ‘Ghar Bhitra Janta (people inside homes)’ agitation from Aug 19 in the three hill sub-divisions — Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong — of Darjeeling district in northern West Bengal, it limited the programme to a single day, Monday.
Instead, the GJAC drew up a fresh programme, calling upon the people to pour out on the streets Aug 20-23 in support of a Gorkhaland state to be created out of Darjeeling district and parts of Jalpaiguri district.
“We have noted that the people in the hills want to come out on the streets in large numbers and demand Gorkhaland as they want the authorities to hear their voices. So we are giving a call for ‘Janta Sadak Ma (people in the streets)’ programme Aug 20 to 23,” said GJAC convernor Raju Pradhan.
GJAC spearhead, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung said the decision was taken as the government was “suppressing our voices”. “The ‘Janta Sadak Ma’ programme has been organized to voice our demand for Gorkhaland,” Gurung said in a Facebook post.
Protest rallies will be held Aug 24 and 25. On Aug 26, a human chain will be formed.
Pradhan said that on Aug 27 and 28, the people of Darjeeling Hills would petition central political leaders including the prime minister and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi for creation of Gorkahland.
“We will fax our petitions to all the leaders,” Pradhan said.
The GJAC also announced it planned to launch an economic blockade of tea and timber – two mainstays of the hill economy besides tourism. However, the dates for the movement was yet to be finalised.
Meanwhile, the GJM and the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League fought a verbal duel, a day after the ABGL announced it would keep away from the GJAC unless the GJM members resigned from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) – the autonomous hill development council.
The GJM hinted at the involvement of “some external force” behind the ABGL’s decision.
“Heard that ABGL has backed out from the Gorkhaland agitation because they believe GJM is not ready to quit GTA. Why did ABGL back out after attending two GJAC meetings? Some external force? Well I guess it needs dedication and courage to lead an agitation for Gorkhaland,” Gurung said.
Reacting to Gurung’s comments, ABGL general secretary Pratap Khati accused the GJM of “double standards” and being “not serious” about the Gorkhaland movement.
Several pro-Gorkhaland parties Friday came together to form the (GJAC) and “unanimously” decided to repeal the GTA “but at an appropriate time”.
Despite repeatedly dubbing the GTA a “failure and would be repealed soon”, only Gurung has so far resigned as its chief executive while the other elected members are still continuing.
Armed with more powers than its predecessor the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council formed in the late 1980s, the GTA was created July 18, 2011 via a tripartite between the GJM and the central and state governments.
Meanwhile, expressing concern over the Gorkhaland issue, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee stressed on the need for an all-party meet to resolve it.
“It seems we are getting better at breaking things. Are we heading towards breaking the country into pieces? It’s a matter of concern and there should be a concerted effort by all political parties to sit together and resolve the issue,” Chatterjee said in Kolkata Sunday.