Tourists flee as GJM shutdown begins in Darjeeling hills

Monday, December 14, 2009

SILIGURI - Thousands of tourists fled the hills as a four-day shutdown called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland, carved out of West Bengal’s northern region, began here Monday.

Normal life came to a halt in several places, including Darjeeling district with shops, markets and offices closed and the public transport off the road. Tourists in thousands fled the ‘queen of the hills’ fearing trouble during the shutdown.

GJM activists set up counters at various points across the region to facilitate tourists stranded during the 96-hour strike (between Dec 14 and 17).

According to GJM assistant secretary Binoy Tamang, tourist help camps had been set up in three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong. He said GJM had also made arrangements for buses to ferry tourists from Darjeeling to the plains.

“The tourists will also be given authorised letters, issued by the party’s central committee members, which will help them to leave Darjeeling. The cadres will have to accept those signed letters,” Tamang said.

In the national capital New Delhi, hundreds of GJM women activists, led by the party’s general secretary Roshan Giri, began a relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar to demand a separate Gorkhaland state.

“We’ll continue our protests till our Gorkhaland demand is met,” Giri told IANS over the phone from New Delhi.

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