GJM’s shutdown relaxation brings relief to Darjeeling, Sikkim

June 23rd, 2008 - 3:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Siliguri (West Bengal), June 23 (IANS) People poured onto the streets of Darjeeling as shops and offices opened and trucks carrying essential supplies were seen moving towards the region from here Monday following the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha’s (GJM) decision to relax its indefinite shutdown for 60 hours. In the three hill sub-divisions - Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong - people were seen in large numbers at markets and offices after the GJM, agitating for a separate Gorkhaland, relaxed the shutdown from 6 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Wednesday.

There was a heavy rush of trucks carrying food and vegetables, LPG cylinders and other essential items on National Highway 55 connecting Siliguri with Darjeeling. The jeep, taxi and bus services between the plains and the hills also resumed.

Similar hectic scenes were seen on National Highway 31 A, connecting Sikkim with Siliguri. The hill state was virtually cut off from the outside world after GJM workers blocked the highway, considered the lifeline of Sikkim.

Meanwhile, a four-member GJM delegation, led by party general secretary Roshan Giri, is slated to leave for Delhi later Monday to brief central government representatives and political party leaders about the situation in the hills.

The team would also do the ground work for the tri-partite talks, which the GJM has sought with the central and state governments, the party’s press and publicity secretary Benoy Tamang told IANS.

In what is being construed as a softening of stand on the part of the GJM, another two-member team led by its assistant general secretary Raju Pradhan would reach Kolkata Tuesday to hold discussions with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on the situation in the hills.

Despite two missives for talks from Bhattacharjee, the GJM had earlier maintained it would not hold any dialogue with him in Kolkata and was only prepared for discussions in New Delhi in the presence of central government representatives.

However, Tamang denied there being any shift in the GJM’s stand. “We are not going to Kolkata to hold any formal talks with him to resolve the Gorkhaland issue. We will only apprise him of the situation in the hills and request him to arrange for a tri-partiite meeting,” he said.

The GJM would also demand withdrawal of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) from Siliguri and adjacent areas and press for the arrest of those who allegedly committed atrocities on its party activists June 8 in the plains.

The GJM would lodge a complaint with the chief minister about the administration’s decision to ban assembly of more than four people to foil the party’s proposed relay hunger-strike in Siliguri and adjoining areas as also the Jalpaiguri district area of Dooars.

Talking tough, the GJM said it would not spare the tea gardens, cinchona plantations and educational institutions from the ambit of the shutdown when it resumes after 6 p.m. Wednesday.

“Nothing will be exempted this time,” he said.

The party had exempted the three sectors from its indefinite shutdown last week.

Normal life in the Darjeeling hills has been affected over the past few weeks following the Bimal Gurung-led GJM’s agitation for the creation of a separate Gorkhaland state.

The three pillars of the hill economy - tea, timber and tourism - have been hit hard due to the shutdown. The GJM had on June 10 called the indefinite shutdown in the hills, but gave a 60-hour relaxation the next day to enable thousands of stranded tourists to reach the plains. Later, the party again deferred the agitation by two days.

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 Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

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