‘Indefinite’ bandh by GJM begins in hills, state claims ‘normal’ attendance

Mamata asks people not to listen to agitators
Report by: 
Agencies
DARJEELING
12 Jun 2017

The West Bengal government offices here recorded "normal" attendance although some stray incidents were reported during Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM)-sponsored indefinite bandh in Darjeeling hills which began today.

In Bhangar, chief minister Mamata Banerjee today urged the people of Darjeeling not to pay heed to the GJM leaders. "I would like to ask the people of the hills not to listen to a few leaders there and allow them to disturb the peace," Mamata said here today. "They will throw a few bombs and leave. The people in the hills are good and they will continue to stay there. Remember the goons cannot be assets to the nation," she said. Referring to GJM's threat that it would show black flags if she visits the hill, the chief minister remarked: "I do not get scared if someones threatens me. I know how to respond to the challenge."

"They (GJM) have challenged me saying that I will not be allowed to enter the area. But I had gone there and held a cabinet meeting and brought back peace. After that I returned," she said. The GJM has called the shutdown in central, state government and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) offices in the hills in support of their demand for Gorkhaland. State tourism minister Gautam Deb claimed that attendance in government and GTA offices was "normal" in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik. "The people have defied GJM's diktat and attended office. We hope good sense will prevail on the GJM leadership," he said. "The situation is peaceful here and everything is normal. Attendance in schools is also normal. We have taken all precautionary measures to check any untoward incident," darjeeling district magistrate Joyoshi Dasgupta told news agency PTI.

Police pickets and barricades were placed in front of the government and GTA offices while Rapid Action Force (RAF) and a sizable number of women police personnel were also deployed, Dasgupta said. She said the Army was present in the hills as a "backup". "The administration will act as per law if anybody is found forcing others as well as establishments to participate in the bandh," the DM said.
"The administration will also see that no tourist faces trouble because of the bandh. We will not allow anything or anybody to disturb normal life here in the hills," she said. GJM general secretary Roshan Giri claimed that the response to the bandh was good.

"We could have enforced the bandh but we have not done that. We only appealed to the people," he said, adding "The state government may claim almost cent per cent attendance but that is not the case." "We want Central intervention. Our party chief has written to the prime minister and Union home minister to sympathetically consider our demand (for Gorkhaland)," Giri said. The GJM activists allegedly damaged a panchayat office and a PWD office in the hill and resorted to picketing at some places in Kurseong and Kalimpong. Police said that eight GJM activists were detained for allegedly trying to set fire to a BDO office at Phulbazar in Bijanbari block. The GJM workers also damaged a PWD office in Darjeeling, the police said, adding that another office at Sonada was damaged.

Giri, however, denied his party's involvement in it and said that it was an attempt to defame the GJM. Schools, colleges, transport, hotels and shops were exempted from the purview of the shutdown. Banks would remain open twice a week. Most of the tourists have left the hill station in view of the GJM's agitation. GJM president Bimal Gurung said: "It is better if the tourists leave as the situation is deteriorating." The state government has ordered all its employees and those of institutions receiving grants-in-aid from it to attend office during the bandh period and warned that absence from duty would be considered as a break in service.