Gorkhaland activists blockade roads in Darjeeling

November 11th, 2008 - 6:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Siliguri (West Bengal), Nov 11 (IANS) Life came to a standstill across West Bengal’s Darjeeling district as hundreds of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) activists Tuesday staged road blockades following rumours that a state transport office was being shifted from the hills to the plains.”The blockade started at 11 a.m. (Tuesday) and continued till 1 p.m. School buses, ambulances and army vehicles were kept out of the purview of this agitation programme,” GJM Kalimpong sub-division president Kalyan Dewan said.

He said the road blockade was in protest against an “administrative decision” to shift the Regional Transport Office (RTO) from Darjeeling hills to the Siliguri sub-division in the plains.

“Mainly the road blockade was staged on the National Highway-55 and NH-31A that connects West Bengal with Sikkim,” Dewan said.

However, Darjeeling District Magistrate Surendra Kumar Gupta denied any such decision on the part of the state government.

“No such step has been taken so far to shift the Darjeeling district RTO office to Siliguri sub-division,” Gupta said.

Meanwhile, students of Vidyarthi Morcha, the students’ arm of GJM, began a 48-hour relay hunger strike at 11 different points across Darjeeling and its neighbouring Jalpaiguri district. At least 150 students participated in the hunger strike.

The GJM, led by its president Bimal Gurung, has been spearheading a movement in the hills demanding a separate state and also opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling.

The central government in 2005 announced the Sixth Schedule status to the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)-led Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), thereby ensuring greater autonomy to the governing body.

But Gurung’s group, which is opposed to the GNLF, is demanding full statehood.

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