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Say no hawkers market in Chowrasta, Darjeeling cries !

Say no hawkers market in Chowrasta, Darjeeling cries
The widespread protest against the proposed development of a hawkers market in Chowrasta by the West Bengal government, and the administrative push for the same shows how out of sync the occupants of Nabanna [new Writers Building] are with the emotions of the hill populace.

However, to fault the West Bengal government alone for this deplorable attempt at desecrating one of the most revered and cherished sites in Darjeeling would not be right. The Darjeeling Municipality, and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration should bear equal responsibility for the situation to have come to a head. Honestly speaking, had some thought been put into rehabilitation of the hawkers who had been evicted by the municipality, this sorry situation could have been entirely avoided.

But pointing fingers is not going to help, and that is not what this editorial seeks to do. The motive behind writing this editorial is to appeal for saner heads to prevail.

The West Bengal government should realize that Chowrasta is an integral and important part of the life for the people of Darjeeling, and is as sacred as Belur Math is to Kolkatans, or Rajpath is to the Delhiites. We are connected to Chowrasta in every which way imaginable – socially, culturally, emotionally and religiously. Chowrasta is our gateway to Mahakal Mandir, the guardian deity of Darjeeling. The place where the proposed hawkers market is to be built, sits next to a Buddhist shrine. The places in and around Chowrasta is a Cultural Heritage site, and we request the West Bengal Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee to respect our heritage and stop the construction of this hawkers market.

How would the Hon’able Chief Minister feel, if someone proposed to build a hawkers market inside Kalighat Temple or Belur Math complex? or even inside Victoria Memorial for that matter. What if someone proposed to build a hawkers market in Maidan or in Dakshineshwar temple complex? Wouldn’t the Hon’able Chief Minister prevent that from happening?

We – the people of Darjeeling feel as strongly about Chowrasta, and for us Chowrasta holds equal respect and reverence as these culturally important sites in and around Kolkata, if not more.

The administration does not seem to understand that the people of Darjeeling are not just against the chopping of trees, but are appalled at the idea of a hawkers market coming up at Chowrasta. Please do understand that after all Chowrasta is Darjeeling’s heart, and we do not want a hawkers market to be built in the heart of Darjeeling.

Hon’able Chief Minister, people from all over the world love Darjeeling, and Chowrasta, and so do you. Even people from the rest of West Bengal feel that Chowrasta should be left as it is, and even they are appaled at the idea of a hawkers market coming up in its vicinity. You can ask around and find out for yourself. We appeal to your good sense and request you to prevent the desecration of a place with which all of us are are so religious, culturally and emotionally attached.

The hawkers do have a right to earn their livelihood, and in that we support your attempt at rehabilitating them, but do we need to destroy the charm and beauty of Chowrasta to do so? Darjeeling needs a planned market complex for the hawkers, and that can be built at Chowk Bazar.

I appeal to the Chief Minister and implore her to build a world class hawkers market at Chowk Bazar, let that be your legacy towards the Darjeeling hills, just like how Mirik Lake is for the former Bengal CM Siddharth Shanker Ray. Let the future generations of Darjeeling look at the Hawkers Market in Chowk Bazar and say a prayer for you out of gratitude, instead of cursing you every time they see one at Chowrasta.

I appeal to the GTA and the Municipal authorities to take up this matter at the earliest with the Chief Minister herself; maybe she is not aware how strongly we – the hill people feel about Chowrasta, and inform her of its cultural significance in our lives.

I appeal to the Trinmool Congress district President Bhaichung Bhutia to stand for the people of Darjeeling and prevent this atrocity from happening. I also appeal to the Hon'able Member of Parliament from Darjeeling Shri. S S Ahluwalia to ask the district administration to stop acting like a political stooge for the state government. I request the three MLA's from Darjeeling region - Mr. Trilok Dewan, Dr. Harka Bahadur Chettri and Dr. Rohit Sharma to use your good offices to prevent this market from being built. The opposition parties and leaders from Darjeeling - Dr. Mahendra P Lama, Mr. Ram Bahadur Rai, Mr. Pratap Khati, Dr. Enos Das Pradhan, Mr. P Arjun et al. who have so far been quiet on this issue to speak out and speak up. This is about Darjeeling, and let not petty politics stand in your way of looking after Darjeeling and its people.

I also appeal to the GTA and Municipal authorities to sit down and seek a solution to this conundrum with the Hawkers themselves. Even they are one of us, and even they feel the same way for Chowrasta as the rest of us. If you listen to them properly and heed to their request, the chances are that they will relent and may not want a market to be built in Chowrasta where only 80 of them can be housed any way. A well developed plan for rehabilitating them can be arrived at through a collaborative decision-making process. Please do make use of it. Talk to the hawkers and find an amicable solution to this problem.

If worse comes to worse, I would rather have the hawkers occupy the roads like earlier, than have a hideous hawkers market be built in Chowrasta.

The movement to save Chowrasta is the movement to save Darjeeling’s SOUL and I appeal to all the decision-makers to help us in our endeavour. 



COME CELEBRATE CHOWRASTA!!


On behalf of the people of Darjeeling, we appeal to the authorities, especially the Hon' Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee and Bimal Gurung Official to help the people of Darjeeling to protect our Cultural and Natural Heritage area - Chowrasta.

We - the people of Darjeeling consider Chowrasta to be its heart, and Chowrasta holds immense significance for all of us - socially, culturally and religiously.

We support the right of the hawkers to earn their livelihood, but not at the cost of desecrating our beloved Chowrasta, which holds a special place in all of our hearts. We appeal to the authorities to develop the hawker market elsewhere and not in Chowrasta.

Chowk Bazar can be redeveloped to accommodate all the hawkers and there will be place for many more, and in this endeavour we will enthusiastically support the authorities. But please spare Chowrasta.

We appeal to all our readers to join us for "Celebrating Chowrasta," let us all come together and let our decision-makers know how much Chowrasta means to us...

All of us have enjoyed Chowrasta, its time to stand up for it!!

Please help us spread the word!! If you really care, please don't just press "Like" Share this in your timeline.. Please use #SaveChowrasta in your comments and posts, let us trend this. 

The Darjeeling Chronicle

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