Protest marches held in Darjeeling, normal life crippled

Darjeeling, Jun 21 (PTI) Protest marches were held on the seventh day of the GJM-sponsored indefinite shutdown today in the Darjeeling hills where normal life remained crippled and Internet services suspended with the security forces maintaining a hawk-eyed vigil.

However, no untoward incident was reported from anywhere in Darjeeling which had witnessed widespread clashes between the GJM activists and the security forces on Saturday.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), leading an agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state to be carved out of West Bengal, gave a 12-hour window on June 23 to various boarding schools in the hills to evacuate their students to Siliguri and Rongpo.

An official said the district administration has written a letter to the service providers to ensure that Internet remained suspended.

Such services, which were discontinued four days ago, will be shut for at least for another seven days, he said.

The local people termed this measure as an “oppressive step against a democratic movement”.

On the seventh day of the indefinite stir, protest marches were held at various places in the hills in support of the demand for a separate state.

The police and security forces patrolled the streets of the bandh-hit hills and police pickets were placed at the entry and exit routes of Darjeeling. Except pharmacies, all other shops, hotels and restaurants remained closed.

An all-party meeting convened by the GJM) yesterday had passed a resolution, making it clear that the shutdown will be carried on until the security forces were withdrawn from the region.

Senior GJM leader Binay Tamang told reporters here, “Our party’s central committee has decided to give a 12-hour window from 6 am to 6 pm on June 23 to the schools in the hills to evacuate their students.”

He said, “The students will be allowed to go to Siliguri and Rongpo only in school buses. The indefinite shutdown will continue. Only the students will be allowed to leave safely.”

Some tea garden workers were reportedly beaten up by the GJM supporters in Naxalbari area, around 65 km from Darjeeling, but the party denied the allegation.

The GJM has decided to withdraw from the tripartite accord on the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), an elected body for the Darjeeling hills. The parties to the agreement in 2011 were the Union home ministry, the state government and the GJM.

The parties, which had attended yesterday’s all-party meeting in Darjeeling, had decided not to participate in tomorrow’s all-party meet called by the state government to discuss the prevailing situation in the hills.

Meanwhile, B Gurung, a member of the Gurung Development Board, constituted by the state government in January this year for the development of Gurung community, resigned today.

In an apparent reference to Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia, who is also a minister at the Centre, Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee accused him of “fomenting trouble in the hills” and demanded his resignation.

Chatterjee alleged, “The way he is speaking, he is violating the Constitution. He is provoking people.

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