The state government is planning to launch a massive crackdown in the Darjeeling Hills after Tuesday when its 72-hour ultimatum to the GJM to withdraw the indefinite bandh expires.
Apart from imposing Section 144 in various areas, the police are also planning to forcibly lift blockades and arrest key Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders.
The government is also planning to escort stranded trucks and vehicles to and from Darjeeling and provide ration to the people through its offices.
On Saturday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had issued a 72-hour deadline to the GJM to lift the bandh, or else face action.
“We’re ready to take action based on the high court’s directives. We’ll try our best to bring life back to normal in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and other areas,” a senior home department official said. The department has already informed the government and Darjeeling Police about the plan.
The department believes that the GJM will not withdraw the bandh and the government will have to resort to strong-arm tactics.
“Our first task is to open up the roads and lift the blockades. We may also impose Section 144 in some areas. Our forces are preparing for that. We’ll request shopowners to open shops and the government will provide them protection,” the official said.
The state government wants to ensure smooth passage for trucks and other vehicles going to the Hills, or coming back.
The government’s priority is to ensure that food and other items stuck in Siliguri reach Darjeeling.
The government also wants to ensure that Darjeeling tea consignments, which are stuck in the Hills, reach the markets and airports as soon as possible.
The police have already arrested key GJM leaders and Gorkhaland Personnel.
More arrests were likely, sources said.
With shops remaining closed in the Hills for the ninth day on Sunday, the government is planning to supply grains and other essential items through ration shops and government offices after Tuesday.
Special armed guards will be posted at government offices, GTA offices and vital installations in and around Darjeeling to prevent arson.
More forces could be sent to the Hills if needed, home department officials said.
On Sunday, the GJM, which has been made a respondent in the case, received a copy of the court order.
“The order states that although political parties have the right to call for non-cooperation movements or general strikes, when this exercise violates the fundamental rights of citizens, the question is whether the rights of the political party extend to violating the rights of others,” GJM assistant general secretary Raju Pradhan explained.
Gurung said the GJM would adhere to the Calcutta High Court order.
“The Morcha will use no force or picketing in programmes in Darjeeling. There will be no picketing at government offices, schools and colleges. We won’t use force or intimidation to interfere with road and rail traffic or the free movement of the citizens. The Morcha will ensure that all public transport, including state vehicles, run smoothly in the District of Darjeeling during the bandh. Such essential services as telephones, water supply, milk distribution, power supply, fire services, newspapers, hospitals and other government offices will not be interfered with,” Gurung said.
But, the GJM has made it equally clear that the agitation will continue.
“From 6am on August 13 and 14, we have called for a public curfew. Supporters of Gorkhaland won’t come out onto the streets.They’ll sit at home in support of Gorkhaland. There will be no rallies and pickets on these two days. On August 15, the bandh will be relaxed,” Pradhan said.
“We haven’t imposed the bandh in Darjeeling. The people have come out spontaneously in support of Gorkhaland. We will continue displaying the public mandate for Gorkhaland, which they show voluntarily,” Gurung added.
The GJM chief has called for an all-party meeting at the Darjeeling Gymkhana Club at 11am on Monday. After the meeting, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) members will hold talks with the GJM’s central committee members.
“Following these two meetings, we’ll announce our future programmes,” Pradhan said, adding that the GJM was still ruling out any chance of talks with the state government. “If, in the case of Telangana, the UPA adopted a unilateral stand without consulting Andhra Pradesh, the same can be done for Gorkhaland.
Why do we have to sit with the West Bengal government? We’ll follow the Centre’s directions,” Pradhan added.