West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday described the 12-hour-long strike called by the local party Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in Darjeeling on Friday as “illegal”, stating that the government will take stern action against those participating in it. The chief minister said: “Strike, bandh cannot be called for every other issue. This cannot be a message of peace.” Banerjee decided to remain in the hills after Thursday’s clash between the locals and police, forcing the government to deploy army in Darjeeling. Meanwhile, challenging Banerjee to stop the agitation in the area, GJM chief Bimal Gurung today projected himself as the “chief minister of the hills”. In a statement to PTI, Gurung said: “As the chief minister of West Bengal she is trying to show her strength. But she must not forget that I am an elected member of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). I am the chief minister of the hills, I challenge her to stop the agitation in the hills.”
Later in the day, the Army staged a flag march in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong. The Army was requisitioned by the West Bengal government for the hill towns of Kurseong and Kalimpong as a precautionary measure, apart from Darjeeling town which saw large-scale violence and vandalism on Thursday. “A total of six columns have been deployed – three inDarjeeling town, two in Kalimpong and one in Kurseong inDarjeeling district,” a defence spokesperson said.
Mamata Banerjee also inspected the situation in After the walk, she said “I have been roaming around the area since morning. I have seen the manner in which the vehicles have been set on fire. There was no issue or any incident. We want peace and development in the hills. The Army has already started route march. Law will take its own course”.
The tourists who are stranded in the hill-station were given assurance about special care will be taken for them. Assuring the stranded tourists regarding their safety, Banerjee said, “I will ask the tourists not to worry, the government is there for you. We have full support for tourists specially. There will be seven-eight buses which will take you to Siliguri”.