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GJM fears police crackdown, won’t disclose venue of today’s key meet

LiveMint logoLiveMint 28-06-2017 Arkamoy Dutta Majumdar

Darjeeling: In a sign that the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) is apprehensive of a police crackdown on its top leaders, the party has kept under wraps the venue of Thursday’s all-party meeting called by it.

GJM leaders said on Wednesday that the meeting will take place in Kalimpong town—and not in Darjeeling as initially planned—but did not disclose the venue.

Several GJM leaders, including president Bimal Gurung, have been charged with murder following clashes with the police on 17 June in which three protesters were killed and many security personnel sustained serious injuries. Though Gurung last week dared the police to arrest him, he remains holed up in his residence, guarded by at least 55 units of a self-styled militia.

Gurung was conspicuous by his absence on Tuesday when GJM supporters in downtown Darjeeling burnt copies of the tripartite agreement that led to the formation of the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA)—a semi-autonomous body for development of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts—in 2012. It is expected that he will preside over Thursday’s all-party meeting, which has been called to discuss the future course of the agitation.

Two senior police officers in Darjeeling said the GJM leadership is under intense pressure. Also, the party may be looking to shift the base of its agitation for Gorkhaland from Darjeeling to Kalimpong, where it appears it has a stronger support base, according to these officers, who asked not to be identified. GJM supporters in Kalimpong have indulged in more violent attacks recently than anywhere else, these officers pointed out.

A spokesperson for the GJM said the party was under no pressure, and that the venue of Thursday’s meeting was changed from Darjeeling to Kalimpong because “it helps to hold such meetings at different places”. Asked why the venue was being kept under wraps, he said it is to be finalized soon. On the party deploying youths to guard Gurung’s home, he said: “Our leader has already dared the police to arrest him.”

For years, the Gorkhas have trained a section of the local youths in martial arts, according to the police officers cited above. This militia, which is receiving training from retired defence personnel, is widely known as Gorkhaland Personnel, or GLP. This militia may also have received training in the use of firearms and sharp traditional weapons, the officers added. Top officers have already been deputed to Kalimpong to keep a tight vigil when the all-party meeting takes place on Thursday, the police officers said.

Mann Ghisingh, president of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), said he was surprised that the GJM had still not announced the venue of Thursday’s all-party meeting and that invitations have still not been sent. The meeting is crucial, according to Ghisingh, whose father, the late Subhash Ghising, led the movement for Gorkhaland for several decades from the mid-1980s.

A broad-based leadership has to helm the movement, according to Ghisingh. It is the only way for the Gorkhas to get attention in New Delhi, he said, adding that the GJM should have made sure that the movement did not turn violent. The GNLF, however, backs the GJM over its demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland, he clarified.

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