Darjeeling, Sikkim cut off from plains by Gorkha group blockade


Siliguri (West Bengal) : Sikkim and Darjeeling were cut off from the plains Thursday following a 12-hour shutdown called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) in the Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars regions.

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GJM activists, protesting the alleged attacks on their supporters at Kalchini in Jalpaiguri district Wednesday, put up a road blockade at Sevak – an important road junction in north Bengal from where National Highway 31A linking Sikkim begins – cutting off access to the tiny Himalayan state from the plains.

The agitators, however, allowed ambulances, military vehicles and milk vans to ply.

A similar road block was put up at Dagapur and Sukna on National Highway 55, connecting Siliguri and Darjeeling.

The shutdown was partial in the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling district as also in large parts of Terai and Dooars regions of Jalpaiguri district, with private vehicles off the road and most of the shops and business establishments closed.

All tea gardens also observed full shutdown, the police said.

However, the shutdown was not very effective in Siliguri town and adjoining areas. Only a few areas like Pradhan Nagar, which are GJM strongholds, were affected.

Jalpaiguri District Magistrate Bandana Yadav said there were no reports of any untoward incidents in the district.

However, activists of the GJM and anti-Gorkhaland outfit Jana Jagaran Mancha clashed at Debidanga under Pradhan Nagar police station of Siliguri sub-division.

Five persons of a family sustained injurries while 15 houses were ransacked, special inspector general of police (Darjeeling Range) D.T. Lepcha told reporters.

Meanwhile, orders prohibiting the assembly of more than four persons were clamped indefinitely at Kalchini in Jalpaiguri district – the scene of violence Wednesday which left 25 persons, including 10 policemen, injured.

The clash occurred when GJM activists besieging the Block Development Office and the Gram Panchayat office at Hamiltonganj under Alipurduar sub-division, met with resistance from workers of the Jana Jagaran Manch, which is opposed to the creation of a Gorkhaland state.

Irate GJM activists later attacked parliament member Joachim Baxla’s residence, damaging the window panes.

The GJM has been spearheading the movement in the hills for a separate Gorkhaland state.

It organised indefinite shutdowns twice in the hills in June and July over its Gorkhaland demand, severely hitting tea and tourism – the mainstay of the region’s economy.

A round of tripartite talks held in New Delhi to solve the problem has not been successful in breaking the deadlock.