The indefinite bandh of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in support of a separate Gorkhaland state began Monday with the supporters of the outfit setting ablaze a government office in a village near Darjeeling. According to Hindustan Times, the panchayat officer’s chamber was gutted at Bijanbari village, about 35 km from Darjeeling. ANI, quoting ADG Darjeeling, Siddhinath Gupta, said the situation has been brought under control, and three people have been arrested.
The bandh has called for a shutdown of all government (state & Central), and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration offices. The GJM is also protesting the alleged imposition of Bengali language in schools across the state.
HT also reports that section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which bars assembly of more than four persons, has been imposed around government offices in Darjeeling.
Paramilitary forces were seen patrolling the city to ensure that the situation remained under control.
While GJM chief Bimal Gurung has said they will not allow state government offices to function, the government has issued circular warning employees of loss of pay and disciplinary action if they did not turn up on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, Gurung demanded that the Centre should immediately set up a committee for the formation of a separate state of Gorkhaland and warned of retaliation if police used force against protesters. “Our protest will be democratic, but if police uses force, I won’t be responsible for what happens. If force is used against us, we will resist it. The people want Gorkhaland. That is our only goal. We will not allow the state government to run offices in the hills and the adjoining areas,” the GJM chief told reporters.