Eight tourists hurt in attack by West Bengal protesters

June 12th, 2008 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, June 12 (IANS) A group of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) activists Thursday attacked a tourist vehicle and injured eight people in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district. “A tourist vehicle was attacked by some GJM activists who entered Dooars area from Kalimpong sub-division (of Darjeeling district). The local people chased away the GJM supporters. While escaping, they came across a vehicle carrying tourists from Darjeeling and they vented their ire on the passengers,” West Bengal Inspector General (North Bengal) K.L. Tamta told IANS.

He said: “The incident took place near Khunia in Dooars. Eight tourists received minor injuries in the attack.”

Tourists continued to have a harrowing time in the Darjeeling hills as transport kept off the roads and food became scarce.

Shops, markets and government offices remained closed and normal life came to a standstill as the three hill sub-divisions - Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong - and some portions of Dooars continued an indefinite shutdown since Tuesday morning.

Thousands of tourists were stranded in Sikkim Wednesday as the National Highway No. 31-A, linking the state with the nearest railhead and civilian airport at Siliguri, remained cut off because of a blockade by GJM activists.

Darjeeling was the summer capital of British India till 1911, when the capital was shifted to Delhi from Kolkata. The verdant hills and the Himalayan toy train service are a prime tourist attraction, particularly during the summer.

But the stranded tourists did get a breather as the GJM leaders relaxed their indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling for 60 hours, from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Saturday. Many of them arrived in Kolkata Thursday morning by the Darjeeling Mail and Teesta-Torsa Express.

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

The central government in 2005 conferred the Sixth Schedule status on the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)-led Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) that ensures greater autonomy to the district’s governing body.

The DGHC was formed in 1988 through a tripartite agreement between the central and state governments and the GNLF after a two-year bout of violence in the hills in support of the greater autonomy demand.

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