GNLF celebrates sowing season

GNLF president Mann Ghisingh
Gorkha National Liberation Front supporters today celebrated a festival to mark the sowing season, where the party decided to cultivate its support base by organising a series of political activities in the hills.

Today's announcement is being seen as the GNLF's first attempt to consolidate its support base under the new president, Mann Ghisingh. Mann took charge of the party after the death of his father, Subash Ghisingh, on January 29 this year.

Since then, Mann has only addressed one public meeting in Kalimpong on April 5.

Today, GNLF supporters, numbering more than 1,500, sang, danced and ate dahi-chura (curd and beaten rice) to mark Asshar Pandhra.

People mark Asshar Pandhra, the 15th day of the Nepali month Asshar, by eating curd and beaten rice. Old timers say the tradition started when all members of a family would be busy in their fields sowing paddy.

Even though Asshar Pandhra is tomorrow, the GNLF decided to mark the event today as "people would be busy tomorrow".

Maan, during his short address, said: "Our community will survive if our tradition and customs survive. Appa (father) has shown us a direction to safeguard our tradition and culture and we will carry on with these activities."

Subash Ghisingh in his pursuit of the Sixth Schedule status for the hills had laid stress on culture and traditions, which at times went to the extent of encroaching on established norms of marking traditional and religious events.

"I wanted to speak on political issues but then today is a day of celebration," said Mann. Even though he didn't speak on political issues, Sharmila Sharma, leader of Gorkha National Woman's Front, said at the event: "Just like we sow paddy from this day, we will now start our political activities in the hills from today. Our party activists will not rest from today till we reach our goal."

The GNLF is demanding the Sixth Schedule status for the hills and until the status is granted, the party wants the government to revive the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. The GNLF claims that the DGHC is more powerful than the GTA.

Delivering his first public address on April 5, Mann had said his father felt betrayed by the Centre and the state government for their combined failure to implement the Sixth Schedule agreement in the hills.

Sources in the GNLF said today that Mann would be embarking on a tour across the Darjeeling hills within a few days.

"He will be visiting different areas of the hills to interact with party supporters and the common public," said a source.

The GNLF leader's itinerary, however, was not known immediately. The GNLF had planned to organise a public gathering at Chowrasta today but the administration denied permission as it had done to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the ABGL early this month.

The Telegraph

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