GJM-WB government battlelines drawn in Darjeeling hills

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Darjeeling, Jun 11 (PTI) A day before the scheduled Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-backed indefinite shutdown in the Darjeeling hills, the president of the outfit, Bimal Gurung, has advised the tourists to leave the hills because of the possibility of “untoward” incidents.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has called for an indefinite shutdown of the government and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) offices in the hills from tomorrow, exempting schools, colleges, transport and hotels from its purview.

Along with the ‘bandh’, it has also revived its demand for a separate state for Gorkhas, forcing the administration to announce tough steps to tackle an unrest.

The GJM has said that banks would remain open for two days a week during the shutdown.

The West Bengal government today ordered all of its employees and those in institutions receiving grants-in-aid from it to attend office on all days till the agitation continued.

Gurung, in a response, told the media, “We are ready to court arrest. We will have to go to jail for the sake of the agitation.”

Blaming Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the renewal of the Gorkhaland demand by his party, he said, “We will stick to our demand for a separate state and continue with the agitation to achieve it.

“Mamata Banerjee has forced us to renew the statehood demand and we will achieve it.”

The chief minister, who had personally monitored the situation in Darjeeling town a day after Thursday’s widespread violence to assure the tourists and locals, has warned of tough measures to tackle any attempt at disrupting the normal life in the hills.

“Bandhs have been declared illegal by the Supreme Court.

Such activities only point towards the political bankruptcy of those resorting to such tactics,” she said in Siliguri yesterday.

“All state government offices in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts will remain open and all the employees should report to duty everyday till the bandh is called off,” a notification issued by the state Finance department said.

“Any absence will be considered as a break in service and no salary will be admissible” unless covered by reasonable grounds, the notification added.

The government has also ordered an audit of the accounts of the GTA, which is run by the GJM. Polls are set to be held for the GTA next month after the completion of its first five-year term since its formation in 2012.

Meanwhile, the police today arrested five GJM supporters for their alleged involvement in Thursday’s violence, said official sources.

The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) won the Mirik municipality in the recently-held civic bodies polls in the hills and also opened accounts in the towns of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong, a first for any political party from the plains in many years.

The Army was deployed in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong after GJM supporters clashed with the police, damaged police vehicles and set some of them ablaze as Banerjee held a cabinet meeting at the Raj Bhawan here on June 8.

Violence had erupted after GJM supporters tried to break the police barricades and march to the venue of the cabinet meeting to protest the “imposition” of the Bengali language in the schools in the hills.

The hill town had remained peaceful for several months as the GJM-led agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland had taken a backseat.

ADDENDUM

Darjeeling hills brace for fresh Mamata-GJM face-off

Darjeeling, Jun 11 (PTI) The verdant Darjeeling hills today braced for a fresh confrontation between the Mamata Banerjee government and the influential Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) which has called an indefinite shutdown of government offices from tomorrow and renewed the demand for Gorkhaland.

GJM president Bimal Gurung has asked tourists to leave the hills because of the possibility of occurrence of “untoward” incidents.

The GJM, an ally of the Centre’s ruling NDA, has called an indefinite shutdown of state government and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) offices, but kept educational institutions, transport and hotels out of its purview. The GJM, which heads the GTA, has also issued a diktat to banks to open only twice a week.

The Trinamool Congress government, on its part, ordered all its employees and those of the institutions receiving grants-in-aid from it to attend office on all days till the agitation continues, warning that absence from duty will be considered a break in service.

“All state government offices in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts will remain open and all employees should report for duty on each day till such bandh is not withdrawn,” a government notification said.

“Any absence will be considered as a break in service and no salary will be admissible unless covered by reasonable grounds,” the notification said.

The GJM had on Friday called a 12-hour bandh in the hills against the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision to introduce Bengali language in schools in the hills, a day after Darjeeling, the picturesque north Bengal town known the world over for its tea industry, witnessed large-scale violence.

A day before, GJM supporters and workers had clashed with the police and set ablaze several government vehicles during widespread protests over introduction of Bengali language in schools in the hills.

Army had to be called out to stage flag marches in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong to restore peace.

The sensitive language issue provided the spark which reignited the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

“The government has encroached on our identity, our language Nepali. We will never tolerate it,” Gurung said, adding “we are ready to court arrest, we will have to go to jail for the sake of the agitation.”

Blaming Banerjee for the renewal of the Gorkhaland demand by his party, Gurung said, “We will stick to our demand for a separate state and continue with the agitation for achieving it. Mamata Banerjee has forced us to renew the statehood demand, we will achieve it.”

Meanwhile, police today arrested five GJM supporters for their alleged involvement in Thursday’s violence.

The GJM has been concerned about the rise in TMCs popularity in the hills after the latter won the Mirik municipality in the recently held civic bodies elections, and also opened its account in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, a first for a political party from the plains in many years.

The government’s decision for a “special audit” of funds allotted to GTA also riled Gurung’s GJM, which has controlled the territorial administration since 2011.

Banerjee had warned of “strong action” against the GJM if it engaged in violence, but the Gorkha outfit upped the ante with its call for a shutdown of government offices, apparently with an eye on the upcoming GTA elections. The term of the present territorial administration ends next month.

Darjeeling hills had seen a violent movement for a separate Gorkhaland in the mid 1980s under Subhash Ghisingh.

The movement ended with the establishment of a semi-autonomous administrative body in 1988 called Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council headed by Ghisingh.

As Ghisingh’s influence waned over time, the GJM launched another movement for a separate state of Gorkhaland. In 2011, the GJM signed an agreement with the state and central governments, and another semi-autonomous administrative unit GTA was born replacing the DGHC.

 

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