GJM shutdown paralyses life in Darjeeling hills

January 18th, 2011 - 7:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Darjeeling (West Bengal), Jan 18 (IANS) Normal life was paralysed in the three hill sub-divisions of Bengal’s Darjeeling district Tuesday as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) began a week-long shutdown demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.The shutdown forced traffic off the roads and people remained indoors in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. The winter chill and heavy fog added to the hill towns’ gloominess.

With the tourists having left for the plains due to the disturbances, the picturesque Darjeeling town was deserted with landmark eateries like Glenary’s and Keventers remaining closed.

Only a few slogan-shouting GJM supporters were seen at the famous Mall.

Offices and commercial establishments did not open. Shops and markets, which saw a flurry of activity with people stocking food and essentials for the week, also downed shutters as the day advanced.

Four companies of central reserve police force shifted from the Maoist-hit west Midnapore have been deployed in the hills and periphery of Siliguri town in the plains to maintain peace, said Police Superintendent D.P. Singh.

However, no untoward incidents were reported.

“The shutdown is total. People have responded overwhelmingly to our call,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told IANS.

“We have exempted tea gardens, cinchona plantations, schools, colleges and tutorials from the bandh (shutdown),” Giri said.

GJM president Bimal Gurung is leading a 90-km procession from Gorubathan in Kalimpong to Jaigaon in the Dooars in the neighbouring Jalpaiguri district.

Prohibitory orders have, however, been clamped banning assembly of more than two persons in the Dooars.

Trouble flared up in Darjeeling hills, which have seen periodic disturbances since the 1980s over the Gorkhaland demand, after the GJM announced a 27-day shutdown in phases to increase pressure on the central and state governments.

In the first phase, the party brought the hills to a standstill with a four-day shutdown Jan 12-15. The second phase, which began Tuesday, will end Jan 25, and the third phase of the agitation is scheduled for the period Jan 29-Feb 12.

To counter the shutdown, the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee (BOBBC) had organised a 48-hour strike in Siliguri Jan 16-17, railing against the Gorkhaland demand.

Sources said the shutdown in the plains of Siliguri affected normal life in Kalimpong, Kurseong and Darjeeling as well because the hill people depend on the town for their provisions.

The Bimal Gurung-led GJM has been leading the renewed Gorkhaland agitation for over two years by sidelining the Gorkha National Liberation Front, which was spearheading the movement since the 1980s.

The GJM called several indefinite shutdowns in the hills between 2008 and 2010, severely hitting timber trade and tourism which provide the bread and butter to the local people.

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