Day 3 of shutdown in Darjeeling, tension continues

Friday, February 11, 2011

KOLKATA/DARJEELING - The situation in West Bengal’s Darjeeling hills continued to be tense but no fresh trouble was reported Friday, day three of an indefinite shutdown called by pro-Gorkhaland Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) against the death of two activists in police firing.

“There are no reports of disturbances today (Friday). Some tension is there. But the situation is under control,” Darjeeling District Magistrate P.M.K. Gandhi told IANS over the phone.

Shops, markets, business establishments and offices remained closed and vehicles kept off the roads in the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.

Demanding a new state of Gorkhaland to be carved out of the Darjeeling district and parts of neighbouring Jalpaiguri, slogan shouting GJM supporters brought out huge rallies in the three hill sub-divisions.

The famous tourist town of Darjeeling, about 635 km from Kolkata, wore a deserted look, with only GJM supporters seen on the streets and all its landmark eateries, hotels and other places of interest closed.

Life was normal in the Dooars - the flood plains and the Himalayan foothills in neighbouring Jalpaiguri district - where the two GJM supporters were killed in Tuesday’s police firing, triggering widespread violence.

Several tourist lodges, forest bungalows, fire service stations, a checkpost, two police outposts and other government offices were torched, and rifles and ammunition looted allegedly by GJM activists in Darjeeling hill sub-divisions and the Dooars between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Police have filed cases against five GJM leaders, including party president Bimal Gurung, for their alleged involvement in violence that started at Nagrakata in Jalpaiguri district before spreading at lighting speed in Darjeeling district.

“We have filed the cases under non-bailable sections. There have been attacks on the police, while police checkposts and a large number of government buildings have also been torched,” said Inspector General of Police Randhir Kumar.

Police resorted to firing in the Dooars Tuesday following a clash with GJM supporters who tried to violate orders that banned gathering of five or more people at a time.

The clashes started when illegal camps set up by the GJM in the Shipchu area of a reserve forest were demolished by police.

Forest minister Ananta Roy said his department lost property worth over Rs.4 crore, but officials claimed the extent of damage could be several times higher.

The Bimal Gurung-led GJM has been leading the renewed Gorkhaland agitation for over two years by sidelining the Gorkha National Liberation Front, which had been spearheading the movement since the 1980s.

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