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Bandh affects life in Darjeeling Hills

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 14, 2009

SEASON CHANGES: Tourists leave Siliguri on Monday after an indefinite bandh call by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha.

SEASON CHANGES: Tourists leave Siliguri on Monday after an indefinite bandh call by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha.

Kolkata: Normal life was hit in the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal on Monday afternoon in response to an indefinite bandh call by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM).

The bandh was to press the GJM demand for removal of certain senior police officers.

The GJM criticised the officers — including the Inspector General of Police, North Bengal — for the action against its supporters in Panighata in the Darjeeling district’s Kurseong subdivision on July 10.

Political observers construe the bandh as a move by the GJM to push its statehood demand, that the State government has rejected outright.

The government has also dismissed the demand for removal of the officers as ‘illogical.’ It said the police had been exercising restraint in the face of a series of agitations in the hills.

In an appeal to the GJM, it said the bandh would badly hit the tea industry, the schools and reduce the flow of tourists to the hill station.

The government is keen to take forward discussions on greater autonomy for the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council at the third round of discussions among the Centre, the State government and the GJM leadership expected to be convened in New Delhi by next month, Urban Development Minister Ashok Bhattacharya said here.

But the GJM leadership has returned to its agitation mode even as it keeps its options open for talks on the Gorkhaland issue with the Centre.

A four-member team of GJM leaders left Darjeeling for the capital to rally support for the statehood demand among MPs across the political spectrum. It will release a document “Why Gorkhaland” there and demand from the Centre an early third tripartite meeting “to be held at a political level.”

“We shall not accept anything less than a political-level tripartite discussion on Gorkhaland. The previous two rounds of talks were at secretary-level,” Benoy Tamang, assistant general secretary, GJM, told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling.

The police action on GJM supporters at Panighata only proves “that our people are insecure in West Bengal,” Roshan Giri, GJM general secretary said. “We shall get justice only when we have Gorkhaland,” he added.

Though vehicles were allowed to ply in the Darjeeling hills during the day, the GJM leadership said they will be barred from Tuesday. Schools whose authorities had been asked to arrange for the return of boarders to their homes over the past two days remained closed.

Tourists have been leaving the hills since the GJM announced its bandh call three days ago.

Source: The Hindu

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