Shutdown cripples life in Darjeeling for sixth day (Lead)

February 14th, 2011 - 11:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata/Darjeeling, Feb 14 (IANS) Normal life continued to be crippled in West Bengal’s Darjeeling Hills for the sixth day Monday due to an indefinite shutdown called by the pro-Gorkhaland group Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM).There was, however, high drama as the GJM announced a 24-hour relaxation of the indefinite shutdown Monday afternoon, only to reverse the decision hours later claiming their supporters want to continue the shutdown without any break.

“Earlier, we decided that the shutdown will be relaxed for 24 hours on Tuesday to enable people stock essential goods. But they have asked us to continue it without break. People are apprehensive that if the shutdown is relaxed, police will start torturing them,” said GJM secretary Roshan Giri.

“Police are assaulting our supporters regularly. They are torturing women and innocent villagers. The villagers are being termed as terrorists,” added Giri.

GJM is observing indefinite strike protesting against killing of their three activists in police firing Feb 8.

Responding to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s call for a dialogue, GJM president Bimal Gurung said, “We are ready for a discussion. But Bhattacharjee has to inform us of the agenda for the discussion before the dialogue is started.”

Gurung said the GJM will welcome the visit of a high-level Election Commission (EC) team if it desires to tour Darjeeling to assess the law and order situation before the upcoming assembly election.

Five members of the poll panel team that is touring several trouble-torn areas of the state will visit Darjeeling Tuesday.

“The team members will start for Darjeeling Tuesday and after completing their assessment will file the reports before the EC,” said additional Chief Electoral Officer N.K. Sahana.

Meanwhile, the shutdown was total in three subdivisions - Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong - in the district. All shops and business establishments remained closed. No vehicles plied on the roads, said Inspector General of Police (north Bengal) Ranvir Kumar.

Police opened fire in the Dooars - Himalayan foothills in Jalpaiguri district - following a clash with GJM supporters who tried to violate prohibitory orders that banned gathering of five or more people at a time.

Over the past two years, the Bimal Gurung-led GJM has sidelined the GNLF, which since the 1980s spearheaded the movement for a separate Gorkhaland to be carved out of West Bengal.

The GJM has called several indefinite shutdowns in the hills between 2008 and 2010, severely hitting timber and tourism - the mainstay of the hill region’s economy.

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