Supporters beat traffic jams to attend meeting

Darjeeling/Kalimpong, May 7: The Siliguri jao (let’s go to Siliguri) campaign of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha could have led to chaos on the roads leading to the plains from the hills, but most people managed to beat the rush and reach the venue on time.
By the time the meeting began at Indira Gandhi Maidan, the ground was nearly full.
The Morcha had only four days to sort out the logistics after the administration gave it permission to hold a meeting in Siliguri on Saturday evening. The people in the hills, however, took it upon themselves to take care of all the arrangements.
“We collected whatever money we could from our village. While some gave Rs 50, others contributed around Rs 150 to hire vehicles. Most drivers only charged for the fuel,” said Amrish Sharma from Judge Bazar in Darjeeling.
Apprehending heavy traffic on NH55, many people left for Siliguri yesterday in the evening. “There was no way we could reach the venue on time even if we had started off at 6am today,” said Poonam Kumar Sharma, a lawyer from Darjeeling.
Others started from Darjeeling at 4 this morning although the rally was to start at 11am. Those who pushed off around 7am could not reach Siliguri on time. “It took us almost two hours to get to Darjeeling More from Pintail Village (a distance of about 2km),” said Sailendra Pradhan of Darjeeling.
People had branched off to different routes via Mungpoo, Rohini Road and Pankhabari, but faced massive traffic jams near the venue. Parking became a major problem and the 3,000 Morcha volunteers struggled to manage the vehicles.
Those who turned out at the meeting included a significant number of first-time participants at political events. Their decision to actively engage with politics appeared to be based on a combination of factors, starting from the non-violent character of the movement to the perceived denial of democratic rights by the CPM-led Bengal government and anger over the recent incidents of assault on ex- servicemen and women in Siliguri.
“Look, as in the mid-80s, the vast majority of the people in the hills are total converts to the cause of Gorkhaland. However, the difference between then and now is the political language of the current movement. Non-violence has struck a chord in our hearts,” said Neel Kamal Chhetri, a teacher from Kalimpong.
Chhetri and his friends had pooled in money to hire a vehicle to go to Siliguri. The group of five included Nasser Ahmed and Nilesh Khadka, both entrepreneurs, and Bikal Prasad and Sulab Pradhan, who work in offices. None of them had ever gone to a political meeting before.
“We are hurt. The incidents in Siliguri (lathicharge on the ex-servicemen’s rally on April 9 and assault on women later in the month) were particularly distasteful. Had such incidents happened in, say Delhi, the CPM’s goondagiri would have been exposed,” said Prasad. (The Telegraph)

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