Shutdown affects normal life in north West Bengal

March 9th, 2009 - 9:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Siliguri (West Bengal), March 9 (IANS) Normal life was affected in four northern districts of West Bengal Monday as the Kamtapur Progressive Party (KPP) forced a 24-hour shutdown to protest the state administration’s refusal to let it hold a public meeting a day earlier.
Demanding the dismissal of the district magistrate, superintendent of police and sub-divisional officer of Jalpaiguri, KPP activists put up roadblocks on the National Highway 31A, cutting off supplies to Sikkim for some time.

KPP president Atul Roy described the shutdown as total. “The shutdown had a tremendous impact in the rural areas. This shows most people support our demands.”

Private and public vehicles did not ply, and most of the shops and commercial establishments remained closed in the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling district, KPP activists said.

Protestors squatted on railway tracks to disrupt train movement. Long distance trains like Sampark Kranti Express, Guwahati-Bangalore Express were delayed for 10 minutes to an hour, till the police intervened and dispersed the protestors.

Inspector General of Police (North Bengal) K.L. Tamta said the protestors attacked a North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) bus on Mainaguri-Tekatoly Road and smashed its windows.

“We have made some arrests after this incident. Otherwise, the situation in north Bengal remained peaceful,” Tamta said.

In the hills, tea gardens remained open while the schools functioned normally as they were kept out of the shutdown’s purview due to annual examinations.

Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung and former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma, who were both slated to address Sunday’s rally, supported the shutdown.

Sangma criticised the state government for “throttling the voice of democracy”. “I will write to the chief minister (Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee) about this,” he said.

The police, however, claimed that the permission for the meeting was not given as it could have led to breach of peace.

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