GJM calls for indefinite shutdown of offices in Darjeeling, army patrolling on
Darjeeling: The Gorkha Jamumkti Morcha on Saturday called an indefinite shutdown in the northern West Bengal hills from Monday, principally targeting public offices, to press for a separate state of Gorkhaland, causing fresh uncertainty in the region which earlier seemed to be returning to normalcy with the Army deployment.
"All central and state government offices, banks, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (hill development body) offices will be closed as part of the shutdown from Monday," GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri told media persons after the party's central committee meeting chaired by its President Bimal Gurung in this picturesque tourist town.
Block Development Offices, Sub-divisional Offices and District Magistrate offices will also be closed, said Giri, throwing a virtual challenge to the Mamata Banerjee led state government.
However, schools and colleges, transport and tourism - hotels, eateries, shops - will be outside the purview of the shutdown, the call for which was given two days after the GJM activists clashed with police in Darjeeling injuring a number of men and women on both sides.
Banks will remain open on Mondays and Thursdays.
Giri said the state government's revenue sources like electricity, mines and boulders will also be part of the shutdown, that threatens to throw the hills back to the chaotic days of the past three decades when similar disruptions badly hit its economy based on the world famous Darjeeling tea, tourism and timber.
With the present round of volatility sparked off by the state government's decision to make Bengali compulsory up to class 10, the GJM decreed that signboards in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Mirik and several parts of Dooars and Terai could be written only in Nepali and/or English.
In another indication of its hardened stand, the GJM also decided that all posters/banners in Bengali will be removed from the hills.
Every Monday there would be torchlight rallies in various wards of the hills from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m, while people will hold mass rallies every Sunday and Thursday in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik.
"There will also be mass signature campaigns in favour of Gorkhaland. The signatures will be sent to the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister," said Giri.
He also announced that the shutdown will be relaxed for four days - June 27 to June 30 - when central and state government offices and banks would be open.
He disclosed Gurung has written to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh complaining against the failure of the GTA run by his party and the highhandedness of the state government which, he accused, of "committing atrocities on the hill peoplea.
Meanwhile, the Army continued to patrol Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong towns, where no fresh violence was reported on Saturday.
Six Army teams, each comprising 43 personnel, have been deployed in the three hill towns after Thursday's flare up during a protest by the GJM.
Three Central Reserve Police Force companies were also camping in the towns.
The state government has already removed Darjeeling's Superintendent of Police Amit Javalgi, and sent him on compulsory waiting. A team of three senior Indian Police Service officers have reached the hills to monitor the situation.
Earlier in the day, Banerjee claimed peace had returned to the hills and announced that the elections to the GTA might be held anytime soon as the present body's term ends on August 2.
Talking tough after a high-level meeting attended by top bureaucrats and police officer at Uttarkanya, the state secretariat in North Bengal, she reiterated that strict legal action would be taken against those behind the recent violence.
Police have already lodged cases against GJM activists including Gurung on various counts including criminal conspiracy, arson, and incitement.
On the other hand, shops, restaurants and hotels reopened after a 12-hour hill shutdown called by the GJM on Friday against "indiscriminate police action" on their activists during the protests.
A substantial number of tourists were seen at the picturesque Mall and the other famed spots of Darjeeling.
The Trinamool Congress brought out a peace rally in the hill town on Saturday morning decrying the violence "perpetrated by the GJM".