Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Strike cripples life in Darjeeling

Life came to a standstill in the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling district with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) sponsored indefinite general strike beginning at 6.00 am on Wednesday.

All shops, markets and business establishments remained closed and vehicles were off the roads, official sources said.

Central, state and Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) offices continued to remain closed for the past one week due to the GJM agitation, sources said.

Even the banks and post offices did not function due to the bandh.

Work in the teagardens and cinchona plantations was hit and the heritage toy train, prime tourist attraction, has not been running from February 12, sources said.

However, the secondary school examinations under the West Bengal Board have been exempted from the purview of the bandh and examinees were allowed to take the examinations.

Bandh suppporters allowed Sikkim-bound traffic to proceed to Gangtok.

Most of the tourists have left the Darjeeling hills in view of the bandh.

The GJM, which is fighting for a separate state of Gorkhaland, is agitating against the introduction of the sixth schedule status for the Darjeeling hills and removal of GNLF chief Subash Ghising from the Gorkha Hill Council.

The GJM had earlier launched an economic blockade and a fast-unto-death programme on February 16.

GJM General Secretary, Roshan Giri said that 33 more party supporters, 11 each from Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong, had joined the party's fast-unto-death programme that began on February 16, taking the total number of those on hunger strike, to 66.

GJM organised the fasting programme in front of the offices of the district magistrate and sub-divisional officer in its second spell from February 16.

Earlier, the party had launched the hunger strike in the first week of this month, but suspended it for three days from February 13 for talks with the West Bengal government in Kolkata.

The talks, however, failed to satisfy the GJM as its major demand to dismiss Ghising, sole administrator of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, from his post, was turned down by the state government.

Meanwhile, barred from entry into the Darjeeling hills since his return from New Delhi on February 19, after persuading the Centre to immediately introduce the sixth schedule status for the hills, Ghising remained virtually confined in a DGHC cottage at Pintal village in the outskirts of Siliguri.

Ghising claimed that he was staying at Pintal village for his 'personal business'.

GJM President Bimal Gugung had warned that's Ghising return to the hills would definitely cause serious law and order problem, and even bloodshed.

GJM supporters had put up blockades to prevent the GNLF chief's entry into the hills.