GJM calls for indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling (Lead)

June 15th, 2008 - 8:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Siliguri (West Bengal), June 15 (IANS) The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), agitating for a separate Gorkhaland state in northern West Bengal, Sunday renewed the call for an indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling Hills from Monday evening. “The indefinite shutdown will resume in the three Hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling district - Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong - from Monday 6 p.m. In Siliguri, Terai and Dooars, our party will organise a relay hunger strike,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told IANS over phone.

The decision came after a meeting of all units of the party in Darjeeling, presided over by GJM president Bimal Gurung.

The party had Tuesday called for the indefinite shutdown in the hills to press for its Gorkhaland demand, but gave a 60-hour relaxation Wednesday to enable thousands of stranded tourists leave the hills.

Later, the GJM again deferred the agitation by two days up to Monday evening.

Regarding the relay hunger strike, Giri said seven activists of the party would fast at a time.

The situation remained normal in the plains of Siliguri and adjoining areas, which were last week rocked by violence between the GJM and some Bengali-speaking groups opposing the Gorkhaland demand.

With the improvement in the situation, the administrative order banning the assembly of more than four people in the troubled areas of Siliguri has been relaxed during daytime and the paramilitary personnel of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) have been withdrawn. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans, however, continued to be deployed.

The prohibitory orders would now be in force from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. under four police station areas in Siliguri and its adjacent region, according to Additional District Magistrate (Siliguri) Paritosh Roy.

In Dooars in Jalpaiguri district, the ban on assembly of more than four people would be clamped from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., district officials said.

A special control room, manned by top CRPF, police and district officials, has been opened in Siliguri to monitor the situation, Roy said.

The supply of essential goods to the hills has also become normal, with 500 loaded vehicles leaving Siliguri for the hills Saturday and Sunday, he said.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has called an all-party meeting to discuss the issue June 17 in Kolkata, but the GJM has been kept out of the deliberations.

The chief minister separately invited the GJM for a dialogue June 18, but the hill party turned down his request and instead called for tripartite talks with the central and the state governments.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Saturday rejected the demand for a separate Gorkhaland but said the central government was prepared to hold discussions with the GJM if it agreed to talks without any pre-conditions.

With the Gorkhaland demand triggering violence in Darjeeling Hills, Siliguri and Dooars in the past few days, tea and tourism - the bread and butter of the region - have been severely hit.

The GJM has been leading the movement in the hills for a separate state, besides opposing the ‘Sixth Schedule’ status for Darjeeling district that ensures greater autonomy to the district’s governing body.

The central government in 2005 conferred the Sixth Schedule status on the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)-led Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).

The DGHC was formed in 1988 through an agreement between the central and state governments and the GNLF after the hills witnessed violence for about two years.

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