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Shutdown cripples life in Darjeeling hills
Darjeeling/Jalpaiguri, Jan 13 (IANS/PTI):
Published on 13 Jan. 2011 11:14 PM IST
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Shops and business establishments were closed in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district Thursday, the second day of a 27-day shutdown called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) to press for a separate Gorkhaland state, police said.
Life came to a virtual standstill in the three sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. Roads were deserted as most vehicles did not ply.
“Barring some untoward incidents, the situation is peaceful. Adequate security arrangements have been made. So far, two vehicles loaded with GJM supporters were seized from Malbazar area for breaching norms while enforcing the shutdown,” said Darjeeling Superintendent of Police D.P. Singh.
A huge contingent of police has been deployed on the National Highway 31A connecting West Bengal with Sikkim. Police are also clearing road blockades set up by GJM supporters.
“The shutdown was total and successful in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong. The shutdown is spontaneous where Morcha supporters are present,” GJM press secretary Harka Bahadur Chetri told IANS.
“In the Terai and Dooars regions, the shutdown evoked partial response because of the presence of the Adibashi Bikash Parishad supporters, who are opposing the shutdown,” he added.
“Around 50 of our supporters enforcing shutdown were arrested so far. Police are trying to tarnish our image by arresting Morcha supporters, alleging that they were creating tension in the area,” Chetri said. The GJM has decided to call the 27-day strike in phases. The first phase of the strike from Wednesday ends Jan 15. The second phase will be between Jan 18 and Jan 25, and the third and final phase from Jan 29-Feb 12.
The Bimal Gurung-led GJM has been leading the Gorkhaland agitation for over two years by sidelining the Gorkha National Liberation Front, which was spearheading the movement since the 1980s.
The GJM called several indefinite shutdowns in the hills between 2008 and 2010, severely hitting timber and tourism - the bread and butter of the hills people.
400 GJM workers detained in Jalpaiguri
Around 400 Gorkha Janmukti Morcha workers, who were holding a road blockade on the second day of their 96-hour bandh to press for Gorkhaland, were detained in Jalpaiguri district on Thursday.
The GJM workers, who blocked roads since 6 am at Nagrakata, were taken to the Jalpaiguri Kotwali police station, police said.
Among those detained were GJM central committee members Rajen Lohar and Santosh Rai. The effect of the bandh was felt at Kalchini, Malbazar, Nagrakata, Banarhat and other areas where the Gorkhas are in a majority with shops, establishments, schools and colleges closed.
In Darjeeling town, GJM workers were picketing at the Chowk Bazar. The offices of the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, DGHC headquarters at Lalkothi, Food and Supply and Drug Control offices at Chowk Bazar were closed, SP DP Singh said.
Picketing by GJM activists was also reported from Sukhiapokhri and Sukna.
The SP said that the National Highway 31A, an important link to Sikkim, was clear of blockades with 250 personnel of the India Reserve Battalion deployed on the stretch from Sevok to Rangli near the Himalayan state’s borders.
Ten mobile vans were also on patrol, while video cameras had been installed at strategic locations to pinpoint and identify GJM supporters and workers if they tried to block roads, Singh said.
Yesterday, GNLF leader Deepak Subba was stabbed by GJM activists at Bijonbari when he tried to stop them from removing a GNLF flag, police sources said.
Subba was rushed to hospital, where his condition was stated to be serious.

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