GJM spews fire as tribals meet Buddha today

Kolkata Says CM is instigating them; tribal leaders say ready for battle with Gorkhas, won’t cede ground in the Dooars

A day before the scheduled meeting between Dooars tribals and Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha organised a public meeting in Garubathan on the Darjeeling-Jalpaiguri border that was attended by tribals as well. Terming the upcoming meeting on Thursday as “eyewash”, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said the state government’s policy was “ridiculous”.

“On the one hand, they are instigating the tribals against us and on the other, they are calling them for a meeting. In today’s public meeting, many tribal leaders spoke apart from our president Bimal Gurung,” Giri said.

A 15-member delegation of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP) will meet Bhattacharjee at 5 pm on Thursday to discuss the ongoing stand-off between them and the GJM in the Dooars. The meeting comes nine days after the CM met with a seven-member GJM delegation, following which tension eased somewhat in the tea belt.

The delegation will comprise five members of the ABAVP state committee and 10 from the Terai and Dooars.

Leading 30 tribal leaders from Nagrakata, the flashpoint of the Gorkha-tribal clashes that began on January 16, is Rajesh Lakra, Dooars-Terai Coordination Committee secretary. Lakra, a hitherto unknown entity in the region, was seen at the forefront of the clashes as well as presenting the public face of the Parishad.

Born in Nagrakata, Lakra (37) has been an ABAVP member for only two years. “I joined the Parishad like many others when mobilisation of tribals began following the stripping of a tribal woman during a rally in Assam’s Beltala. At that time, we felt if this could happen to tribals elsewhere, it could happen to us as well. I am by profession a teacher at a primary school in Chengmari tea garden,” Lakra said from Nagrakata.

“Our people are growing restive. We are the majority inhabitants of the Terai and Dooars. We live here. How can people from outside come down and claim our land? We won’t tolerate it. There will be no problems if the Nepalis stick to the Hills. They are still in Garubathan, which continues to cause tension in the area,” he said.

In Kolkata, ABAVP state president Birsa Tirkey said the meeting would also be about tribal issues such as implementing of constitutional guarantees for tribals.

“The Dooars is a scheduled area. So, the Morcha’s bid to include it in Gorkhaland is unlawful. Eighty per cent of the population is tribal. We called a bandh to protest the GJM move. We fought them and if necessary we’ll do it again. Mobilisation of tribals against the Gorkha threat began nearly four years ago,” said Tirkey, who has been with the ABAVP since 1970. He added that 10 leaders from the Dooars would be picked out of the 30 arriving here on Thursday.