Darjeeling stir from today: GJM, West Bengal govt head for showdown
While the Mamata administration warned employees against taking leave of absence from work until the crisis passes, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has asked tourists to leave the hills.kolkata Updated: Jun 12, 2017 07:16 IST
The stand-off between the West Bengal government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) over an indefinite strike called by the regional party from Monday is showing no signs of abatement, with both sides refusing to back down.
The Mamata Banerjee government on Sunday issued an order mandating all government offices across Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts to remain open, making it clear that there should be no disruption of life on account of the strike. It also stipulated that every state government employee must report to duty until the strike is withdrawn, and leaves without prior approval or a “genuine reason” should not be granted.
The GJM leadership challenged the order, stating that any repressive tactic employed by the state government would be met with more intense agitations.
To further tighten its grip on the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), the West Bengal government removed the full-time principal secretary of GTA, Ravi Inder Singh, replacing him with North Bengal Development Department principal secretary Barun Roy. Roy will hold additional charge of GTA.
It is feared that this display of political upmanship will be at the cost of the region’s law-and-order situation in the days to come. The situation worsened on Sunday morning, when police arrested five GJM activists on charges of sparking violence in the hills a couple of days ago. The Morcha leadership shot back by asking tourists to immediately leave the hills ahead of the indefinite strike.
GJM president Bimal Gurung told HT that the arrest of party activists has only spurred them to intensify their movement for a separate Gorkhaland state. “In the coming days, police might arrest many more activists – aggravating an already tense situation. This is why we have asked tourists to leave,” he said. The regional party had earlier kept the hospitality and tourism sectors out of the purview of the indefinite strike in view of the ongoing tourist season.
The government, however, is determined to foil the bandh at any cost. The order signed by West Bengal secretary PA Siddiqui clearly states that any leave of absence taken by a government employee without prior approval from higher authorities or documentary proof of incapacitation during this period will be treated as ‘dies mon’ – which means break of service with no pay for that day. The employee will also receive a show cause notice from the state government, and those failing to respond will be subject to disciplinary action.
The Trinamool Congress, which managed to win the May 14 election in the Mirik municipality, hopes to make a mark in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) polls later this year. The GJM, on the other hand, is desperate to retain its hold over all the 45 GTA seats it won in 2012.
Asok Bhattacharya, CPI(M) legislator and mayor of the Siliguri municipal corporation, said the situation in the hills has worsened due to Banerjee’s lack of understanding of the Gorkha identity. “Though the chief minister was successful in establishing peace in the hills immediately after she came to power in 2011, she then went on to make one blunder after another,” he added.