Bengal hills tense after GJM infighting over shutdown withdrawal

The situation in the north Bengal hills turned volatile on Thursday following infighting within the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) — spearheading the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state — over the issue of temporary withdrawal of the ongoing indefinite shutdown.

Informed sources said while a faction of the GJM announced that the ongoing indefinite shutdown would be withdrawn for 12 days, the top brass of the party vehemently rejected the decision, saying the “bandh (shutdown) will continue”.

GJM Joint Secretary Binay Tamang, who convened a party’s central committee meeting in Darjeeling district’s Kurseong, announced the shutdown in the hills would be withdrawn from September 1 to September 12.

Expressing happiness at the “good news”, state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said: “We all want return of peace in the hills.”

Tamang’s move came two days after holding talks with Banerjee during an all-party meet called by her in Kolkata over the deadlock in the hills.

“The second phase of all-party meeting will be held on September 12. So, we have decided to withdraw the strike (shutdown) from September 1 to 12 in the hills. The strike will be lifted from 6.00 a.m. tomorrow (Friday),” Tamang told reporters after the central committee meeting.

However, denying any such move, Morcha General Secretary Roshan Giri claimed the shutdown would continue and said party chief Bimal Gurung had not taken any decision to withdraw it.

“Bimal Gurung said the shutdown has not been withdrawn,” Giri said in a message.

“The shutdown is going to continue. We will decide later whether the party would participate in the state government-sponsored all-party meeting on September 12. The news about withdrawing the shutdown is incorrect,” Giri claimed.

An angry Giri said Tamang had been sacked from the GJM Chief Coordinator’s post. “The party will take a decision to oust Tamang (and his close associate) Anit Thapa tomorrow (Friday) at party’s central committee meeting.”

After the differences within the main hill party came to the fore, a section of the GJM activists, unhappy with the decision to call off the shutdown, began a protest and laid siege to Tamang’s house.

Slogans like “We want Gorkhaland” and “Binay Tamang murdabad” were raised by the protestors.

Terming the current situation in the hills as volatile, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) spokesperson Neeraj Zimba said the crack within the GJM was now out in the open.

“Situation in the hills is tense, it has become volatile now as a section of people started protesting and gheraoed Binay Tamang’s house as he announced withdrawal of the indefinite shutdown from September 1 to 12. Later, Roshan Giri and Bimal Gurung issued a statement saying the shutdown would continue. GJM is now a divided house,” Zimba said.

He said the GNLF would soon call a central committee meeting to assess the situation.

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