Darjeeling hills agitation stalls life, shutdown continues

A day after sharp differences within the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha leadership emerged over its call for indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling hills, GJM chief Bimal Gurung’s supporters on Friday stepped up rallies and picketing, completely stalling flow of life in the region.

Thousands of pro-shutdown activists hit the streets at various places in the northern West Bengal hills, including Kurseong, Sonada, Rangan and Darjeeling, raising protests against GJM Joint Secretary Binay Tamang and party leader Anit Thapa on Thursday calling off the ongoing shutdown for 12 days, starting from September 1.

Hailing Gurung as the undisputed leader of the Gorkhaland movement, the agitators pledged to continue the impasse till the statehood for the region is realised. Slogans like “Binay Tamang murdabad” and “We want Gorkhaland” were being raised.

Streets in Darjeeling and other parts of the hills looked deserted. Shops, schools, colleges and offices remained closed since Friday morning.

Terming the renewed agitation in the hills as people’s movement, GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri said people in the hills favoured continuing the shutdown till the separate state of Gorkhaland is created.

“This is a people’s movement. The poor people of the hills are ready to suffer even further for the cause of Gorkhaland. We won’t let their sacrifice go in vein,” Giri said.

“Development is not our only demand. The previously formed autonomous bodies like GTA (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration) have failed. Our only agenda is creation of Gorkhaland. The state government should understand our concern,” he added.

He also said the GJM central committee would hold a meeting on Friday to take a decision on removing Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa from the party.

Several rallies were held across the hills in support of the ongoing shutdown since Thursday evening after Morcha leadership issued a statement refuting the news that the shutdown has been called off.

Claiming that the situation was under control, police in Darjeeling said they would not intervene if the agitation is conducted in a democratic, peaceful manner.

“Some miscreants tried to create ruckus by pelting stones yesterday night. But we dispersed the crowd. Some activists are agitating again today. Police are keeping a close watch. We will not intervene if the agitation is done in a democratic way,” a senior police officer said in Darjeeling.

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