Hills shutdown: State, GJM in a war of attrition over open-ended bandh

Mamata threatens clampdown; Gurung renews Gorkhaland cry, 5 GJM supporters held
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DARJEELING
11 Jun 2017

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.(PTI)