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Shutdown call evokes mixed response in Darjeeling


Siliguri : A 24-hour shutdown called in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district and adjoining Dooars by “Aamra Bangali”, which is opposed to the Gorkhaland demand and claims to espouse the cause of the Bengali-speaking people, evoked mixed response Tuesday.

Life was partially affected in the plains but the hill areas remained normal, police said.

The shutdown, in protest against the activities of the pro-Gorkhaland Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (JGM), passed off peacefully, the police said.

Few private cars and buses were on the roads, while shops and business establishements were also closed at several places in the plains of Siliguri and adjacent areas.

Though nationalised banks remained open, some private banks were closed, and offices saw thin attendance.

Kundan Lal Tamta, inspector general of police (North Bengal), said eight people were arrested for enforcing the shutdown.

Meanwhile, in the hill sub-division of Darjeeling – comprising Darjeeling, Kurseyong and Kalimpong – police continued to file cases against those using GL for Gorkhaland on the numberplates of their vehicles.

A 21-member GJM delegation is scheduled to meet state Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi Wednesday in Darjeeling, where he has gone on a vacation.

Violence had erupted here Monday as irate opponents of the Gorkhaland agitation burnt a bicycle bearing a number plate beginning with GL for Gorkhaland.

The GJM has issued a diktat that the words “West Bengal” should be replaced by “Gorkhaland” on the signboards in the hill sub-divisions from Friday.

The outfit has also decreed that all vehicles plying in the Darjeeling sub-division would have to bear numberplates beginning with GL (Gorkhaland) instead of WB (West Bengal).

GJM had earlier asked people not to pay taxes to the government and telephone bills to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and electricity charges to the West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB).

The total dues on these counts have crossed Rs.150 million.

The GJM, besides spearheading the movement in the hills for a separate Gorkhaland state, is also opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling district that offers greater autonomy to the hill governing body Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).

A round of tripartite talks held in New Delhi following the GJM’S demand has been inconclusive.

The party organised an indefinite shutdown in the hills twice in June and July over its Gorkhaland demand, severely hitting industry and tourism – the bread and butter of the region.