GJM supporters pelt stones at police on day 2 of bandh

Strike called by tea garden labourers evokes mixed response
Report by: 
13 Jun 2017

Gorkhaland supporters today pelted stones at the police in various parts of Darjeeling as they were stopped from enforcing their shutdown in many government offices in the hills, where their indefinite bandh entered its second day.

Police pickets and barricades were put up in front of the government and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) offices and various entry and exit points of the hills while Rapid Action Force (RAF) and a sizable number of women police personnel were also deployed. "The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters pelted stones at police forces in various parts of Darjeeling as they were stopped by the forces from enforcing shutdown in government offices. After we chased them, they ran away," a senior police official said. At around 10 am, a huge GJM procession chanting slogans against the state government and demanding separate Gorkhaland marched to various government offices in Chowkbazar area to stop people from reporting for work. When stopped by the police, the GJM supporters turned violent and pelted stones. The police chased and dispersed the crowd, he said.

Senior police officers like Jawed Shamim, Siddinath Gupta, who are members of the three-member committee set up by the government in Darjeeling, were seen with huge police contingents in various parts of the hills. Shops downed shutters where the stone-throwing occurred.
The GJM leadership has, however, accused the police of resorting to unprovoked lathi charge on the GJM procession. "The police resorted to unprovoked lathi charge on a peaceful rally. The more they use force against us, the more intense will be the struggle for a separate Gorkhaland state," GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told news agency PTI. The government offices on Monday recorded "normal" attendance although some stray incidents were reported during the GJM-sponsored indefinite bandh in government and GTA offices in Darjeeling hills which began on June 12.

Meanwhile, a general strike called by the Tea Garden Labourers Joint Forum in some blocks and four districts of north Bengal today evoked mixed response. The impact of the strike was felt in Alipurduar, Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri as well as parts of Coochbehar, Mathabhanga, Mekhliganj and Islampur block of North Dinajpur. Normal life, however, remained unaffected in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri town. Altogether 215 persons were detained by the police at Hasimara, the police said. The effect of the shutdown was also felt in Birpara, Mal, Nagrakata, Banarhat, Naxalbari, Kumargram, Kalchini and Madarihat with most of the shops closed, private vehicles off the roads and offices witnessing thin attendance. The joint forum comprises 27 organisations including CPM, Congress and BJP, which had called a two-day tea garden strike since Monday demanding Minimum Wages Act and benefits as per the Food Securities Act. The forum has called a general strike today to press their demands.
The GJM also extended support to the strike.

Zia-ul-Alam, secretary of the joint forum, claimed that almost 300 tea gardens of Terai and Dooars were closed.
The strike was also observed in 45 tea gardens of Darjeeling, he said. Demonstrations and protests were held in front of the tea gardens. Protesting tea garden labourers had blocked NH 31 for some time at Dhupguri. CITU leader Ajay Mahali claimed that Trinamool Congress supporters were forcing tea garden labourers to work in the tea gardens at Banarhat. State tourism minister Gautam Deb today said that the present unrest in Darjeeling was against the interest of the people of the hills as the agitation was being staged during full tourist season.

"It is a movement against the people of the hills, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha resorted to this violent agitation during full tourist season," Deb said and added:"Darjeeling registered a record footfall of domestic and foreign tourists this summer." "We hope they will call off the agitation in the interest of the local people," Deb, also a Trinamool Congress leader in Siliguri, situated on the foothills of the Himalayas, said. Deb, who inaugurated a daily Volvo bus service by the state tourism department from here to Siliguri to facilitate travellers, said, "This is the beginning of the end of unrest in Darjeeling." "The general public in the hills are not supporting the agitation. Some elements are trying to disrupt normal life in Darjeeling in an attempt to fish in troubled waters," Deb said. "Such attempts will not be successful. Ultimately the hills will become peaceful and it will be long term. The chief minister is dealing with the situation strongly," he said.