2 held with GL plates in plains – Blockades to fight smear tactic

FROM THE TELEGRAPH

The Citu leader’s car parked at Pradhannagar police station on Wednesday after Morcha supporters in Sukna painted its number plates in black. Picture by Kundan Yolmo

Siliguri, Aug. 27: Pradhannagar police today seized two vehicles with GL number plates on the outskirts of Siliguri and arrested their drivers, while the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters’ tactics of smearing black paint on WB plates in the hills sparked road blockades in the plains.

The law enforcers spotted a Bolero and a Maruti van sporting GL (for Gorkhaland) plates (GL-02A-3963 and GL-02A-2121, respectively) at Dagapur close to Darjeeling More in the morning and seized the vehicles. The owners, Praveen Sunam of Darjeeling and Roshan Pradhan of Sukhiapokhri, were arrested.

“We have brought charges of driving suspiciously against them,” said Rahul Srivastava, the superintendent of police of Darjeeling.

The district police chief added that steps would be taken against vehicles displaying GL number plates in the plains. “However, no instruction has reached us about taking similar steps in the hills,” he said.

Around noon, there was more trouble when Kanai Bhattacharya, a district-level Citu leader and the president of the Siliguri Forest Produce Carrying Contractors’ Welfare Association, returned from Sukna on the foothills, 10km from Siliguri, in his Maruti car with its WB number plates smeared in black.

“I was on my way to Sukna when some Morcha supporters intercepted me,” Bhattacharya said. “They did not pay any attention to our requests and put black paint on the front and rear number plates, saying vehicles with WB registrations would not be allowed to enter the hills.”

The Morcha, which is spearheading the revival of the Gorkhaland movement in the hills, has made it mandatory for all private and government vehicles registered in the Darjeeling district to sport “GL” number plates.

Bhattacharya’s supporters blocked Hill Cart Road – which connects Darjeeling to Siliguri – close to the Pradhannagar police station. The blockade was lifted after 30 minutes when officers from the police station intervened. Srivastava, too, rushed to the spot to meet Bhattacharya and his supporters.

“There was a tension as the number plates of a vehicle had been painted black. A complaint has been received and we are looking into it,” the district police chief said.

Morcha supporters in Sukna continued to paint WB number plates black throughout the day.

“Today, we closed our office offering GL registration to car-owners who wanted it and assembled at the Mirik More, stopping vehicles carrying WB number plates and painting them in black in protest,” said Raj Singh, the vice-president of the Sukna branch of Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha. “So far, we have painted the number plates of at least 70 vehicles, mostly coming from Siliguri.”

Singh added: “Now, if anybody wishes to obtain GL registration, they can get it only from the Morcha central committee.”

The Morcha action in Sukna prompted members of the Citu-affiliated Darjeeling District Taxi and Private Car Drivers’ Association in Siliguri to hold a protest march in the afternoon and submit a memorandum to the additional district magistrate.

“We want immediate administrative steps against the Morcha supporters for forcibly blackening number plates and charging money for the so-called GL registration,” said association secretary Ajay Chakraborty. “Unless there is a change in the situation, none of our members will take their vehicles to the hills as they feel insecure.”

The association has nearly 200 members and most of them use private cars to ferry passengers to and from the hills. Unlike taxis, their vehicles are not exempt from the Morcha diktat.

Later in the day, two more vehicles were spotted in Siliguri with their number plates smeared in black and Hill Cart Road was again blocked for 20 minutes around 5.30pm.

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WB’ blacked out of hill number plates Fee of Rs 30 for ‘New’ registrations in plains

 
 

Aug. 26: Members of a transporters’ organisation in Darjeeling today went about the town blackening the number plates of vehicles that had not yet conformed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s instruction and changed to “GL” from “WB”.

The overzealous drive was undertaken by the All Hill Transport Joint Action Committee despite Bimal Gurung’s assurance that no coercion would be used for number plate conversion. “The people will support us spontaneously,” the Morcha president had said earlier. Today, too, Gurung’s party denied any role in the blackening drive.

“The central committee has not asked anyone to blacken the number plates. Since they (transport committee) have been asked to oversee the drive, they may have done it on their own,” said Binay Tamang, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha.

In the plains, car owners are having to shell out Rs 30 to register their new number plates. Nita Mallik is one of them. A doctor posted at the primary health centre in Gayabari, 35km from Siliguri, she had to take the “GL” number plate from Yuva Morcha’s office in Sukna after supporters approached her when she was on way to her workplace in her car (WB-74M-0707). “She told me that she took the new number plate to avoid trouble,” said Abhijit Choudhury, the block medical officer of health of Sukna. Mallik could not be contacted.

The Yuva Morcha said 158 private vehicles have been “registered” in the past two days. However, the threat to deflate tyres of cars registered with “WB” number plates was not carried out today.

“We have decided not to take action against ‘WB’ licence plate holders till August 28 as several car owners said they need more time for the conversion,” said Raj Singh, the vice-president of the Sukna branch of the Yuva Morcha. However, pickets had been set up at several places on NH55 that connects the plains to Darjeeling.

Singh also said no government vehicles had been registered.

In Calcutta, Bengal home secretary Asoke Mohan Chakrabarti said the “GL” conversion was not happening in the Siliguri area. “They are converting number plates only in the hills, but we are keeping a watch on the situation,” he said.

Although no number plate conversion took place in Siliguri, the heat was felt there this afternoon when Nimai Das who owns two Tata Indicas (WB-74K-6336 and WB-74K-5885) reached the taxi stand on Burdwan Road from Kurseong with the number plates smeared in black.

When Das narrated how he was harassed despite showing “tokens” in Kalimpong given to him by Morcha leaders in Sukna, the drivers at the stand decided to block Burdwan Road in protest. The “tokens” are given to car owners who need time to change into “GL”. “Until they get it, tokens are supposed to help them pass through,” said a driver.

Jayanta Moulik, the CPM councillor of the area, however, pacified the drivers and promised to take up the issue with the administration.

In Darjeeling, Narbu Lama, the president of the joint action transport committee, claimed that his outfit has been able to “blacken” about 60 number plates in the hill town.

Asked if this form of agitation was in keeping with the Morcha’s claim of a democratic and Gandhian form of movement, Sanjeev Tamang, the vice-president of the committee, said: “Everyone had been given time (August 25 was the deadline for private vehicles) to change their number plates. We are neither attacking vehicles nor forcibly seizing papers. After all, this is an agitation. While the conversion has been complete in Kalimpong, it was sad that a few people in Darjeeling had not complied.”

Madan Tamang, the president of the ABGL, came down heavily on the “blackening” drive. “If this is how the government is being kept under pressure, then why have the district magistrate and the subdivisional officers been spared. Let us stop following all state government rules,” said Tamang.

No entry in Darjeeling without GL number plates, says GJM

Kolkata, July 4: Notwithstanding the West Bengal Government’s warning, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, on Friday said it would not allow vehicles in Darjeeling and adjoining areas of the proposed Gorkhaland to run without ‘GL’ number plates from July seven.

“Introduction of GL number plates is part of GJM’s non-cooperation and non-violent movement to press for Gorkhaland,” GJM press secretary Benoy Tamang told PTI from Darjeeling.

He said this would also be mandatory for vehicles of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

“Let the state government and the Centre take whatever action they want. We will go ahead with our vow to introduce GL number plates,” he said.

On Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty’s statement on that this was illegal, Tamang said, “We will not bow down our head before Subhas Chakraborty.

“The Khalistanis in Punjab and NSCN(IM) had introduced their own currency. This was illegal because they did want to stay within the Indian Constitution. We want to stay within the constitutional framework for Gorkhaland. From our viewpoint it is logical and legal.

“The West Bengal government may call it illegal, but we do not want to remain part of West Bengal,” he said (Expressindia)