Instead of suspending bandh, Gorkhaland agitators step up Darjeeling shutdown
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Instead of suspending bandh, Gorkhaland agitators step up Darjeeling shutdown

Bimal Gurung thinks there is no need for any dialogue with the state government as the creation of a separate state is beyond its jurisdiction.

kolkata Updated: Sep 01, 2017 10:53 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times
Despite being in hiding, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung seemed to be firmly in control in the hills.(HT Photo)

Till Thursday small milk parlours and tea stalls used to open for business and water tankers plied in Darjeeling as residents became tired of the shutdown that continued for 78 days at a stretch in the north Bengal hills. That tentative trickle of business in a few small retail outlets, too, vanished on Friday morning as the bandh returned in all its fury with Gorkhaland agitators vowing to continue the shutdown within minutes of a section of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders announcing a 12-day suspension of the bandh on Thursday.

“From Friday morning, the 79th day of the bandh, the shutdown turned complete and nothing is moving or are open for business,” said Suraj Gupta (46), a businessman from Kurseong.

Read: Darjeeling talks: Separate Gorkhaland beyond our jurisdiction, says Mamata

Right from the morning angry GJM supporters brought out rallies in Darjeeling and Kurseong. They shouted slogans in favour of Gorkhaland, Morcha president Bimal Gurung and declared their resolve to carry out the bandh.

GJM leader Binay Tamang, who led the five-member Morcha team to the meeting with the chief minister is under fire from Bimal Gurung and may be expelled from the party on Friday. ( Bikram Sashanker )

On Thursday night Gurung issued a statement saying there is no need for the meeting with the state government on September 12 which was announced by chief minister. His logic: since she has said the creation of a separate state was beyond the jurisdiction of the state government, there was no need of talks with her.

Though none would comment, senior police officers apprehended law and order problem in the hills as clashes may break out between supporters of Binay Gurung-Anit Thapa faction and those of Bimal Gurung.

Read: Darjeeling unrest: Mamata Banerjee’s stand will fuel Gorkhaland demand

The developments delivered a rude shock to the promise of a return to normalcy in the hills after the meeting on August 29 between chief minister Mamata Banerjee and representatives of GJM, Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and Jan Andolan Party (JAP), the most prominent political parties in the hills.

The state of Sikkim, too, has been adversely affected due to the indefinite shutdown since the national highway that connects the state with the rest of the country passes through the bandh-affected areas. ( HT Photo )

GJM President Bimal Gurung, who is in hiding after being charged under UA(P)A sections recently, will hold a central committee meeting of GJM on Friday. In this meeting punitive actions are likely to ba taken against Tamang and Anit Thapa, the two leaders Gurung considers have conspired against him. Both may be expelled from the Morcha.

On Thursday itself, GJM chief coordinator Binay Tamang, who led the Morcha team of five to the meeting at the state secretariat, was removed from his position by Gurung.

Read: Sikkim did not merge with India to become a sandwich between China and Bengal: CM Pawan Chamling

“The chief minister is scheduled to have another meeting with hills parties on September 12. Till then, the bandh will remained suspended,” Tamang said in Kurseong after presiding over a GJM central committee meeting in which about 30 out of 93 members attended.

Soon Bimal Gurung issued a statement saying the bandh will continue and the meeting chaired by Tamang had no legitimacy.

On Thursday night unconfirmed reports said Romala Rai, 48, died after she was hit on the head by a police baton when the forces made a lathi charge to disperse agitators who came out in support of the bandh.

The dream of the agitators of securing a separate state were dashed when Union home minister Rajnath Singh told a visiting team in Delhi on August 13 that the Centre had nothing to do with it and they should hold talks with Bengal chief minister who has vowed not to allow a partition of the state.

Gurung has indicated he will again send a team to Delhi to lobby with the NDA, of which GJM is an ally.

First Published: Sep 01, 2017 10:53 IST