Darjeeling hills brace for fresh Mamata-GJM face-off

Tourists asked to leave in view of 'untoward' incidents

Darjeeling hills brace for fresh Mamata-GJM face-off

The verdant Darjeeling hills on Sunday braced for a fresh confrontation between the Mamata Banerjee government and the influential Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).

The GJM has called for an indefinite shutdown of government offices from Monday, and renewed the demand for a separate Gorkhaland.

GJM president Bimal Gurung has asked tourists to leave the hills because of the possibility of occurrence of “untoward” incidents.

The GJM, an ally of the Centre’s ruling NDA, has called an indefinite shutdown of state government and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) offices, but kept educational institutions, transport and hotels out of its purview.

The GJM, which heads the GTA, has also issued a diktat to banks to open only twice a week.
The Trinamool Congress government, on its part, ordered all its employees and those of the institutions receiving grants-in-aid from it to attend office on all days till the agitation continues, warning that absence from duty will be considered a break in service.

“All state government offices in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts will remain open and all employees should report for duty on each day till such bandh is not withdrawn,” a government notification said.

“Any absence will be considered as a break in service and no salary will be admissible unless covered by reasonable grounds,” the notification said.

The GJM had on Friday called a 12-hour bandh in the hills against the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision to introduce Bengali language in schools in the hills, a day after Darjeeling, the picturesque north Bengal town known in the world for its tea industry, witnessed large-scale violence.

A day before, GJM supporters and workers had clashed with the police and set ablaze several government vehicles during widespread protests over the introduction of Bengali language in schools in the hills. The army had to be called to stage flag marches in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong to restore peace.

The sensitive language issue provided the spark which reignited the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

“The government has encroached on our identity, our language Nepali. We will never tolerate it,” Gurung said, adding “we are ready to court arrest, we will have to go to jail for the sake of the agitation.”

Blaming Mamata for the renewal of the Gorkhaland demand by his party, Gurung said, “We will stick to our demand for a separate state and continue with the agitation for achieving it. Mamata Banerjee has forced us to renew the statehood demand, we will achieve it.”

Meanwhile, the police on Sunday arrested five GJM supporters for their “involvement”  in Thursday’s violence.

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