Shutdown call: GJM, Bengal government set for face-off today

"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 Bimal Gurung said

Written by Ravik Bhattacharya | Darjeeling | Published:June 12, 2017 1:57 am
Security personnel at the entance of the District and Sessions court at Darjeeling on Sunday. Partha Paul

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the West Bengal government are set to have a showdown on Monday over the former’s call for a shutdown of all government offices in the hills. While GJM chief Bimal Gurung has said they will not allow the state government offices to function, the government has issued a circular, warning employees of loss of pay and disciplinary action if they do not turn up on Monday. Heavy deployment of forces will be made at all government establishments, sources in police have said.

GJM chief Bimal Gurung on Sunday demanded that the Centre immediately set up a committee for the formation of a separate state of Gorkhaland and warned of retaliation if police use force against protesters. “Our protest will be democratic, but if police use 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.

“The central government should immediately form a committee for the formation of a separate state of Gorkhaland. We will send a team to Delhi soon. No government, be it the state government or the Centre, can undermine the sentiments of the people,” he said. Nearly 100 Trinamool Congress workers joined GJM in Gurung’s presence on Sunday at the outfit’s office in Patlaybass in Darjeeling. “This is only five. Police may arrest 5,000 of us. We don’t care. We stand united on the issue of Gorkhaland,” said Gurung. District magistrate, Darjeeling, Joyoshi Das Gupta, said, “All measures will be taken to ensure normalcy.”

While the GJM has asked its workers in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Mirik and other areas to enforce the shutdown of government offices and to organise rallies, the ruling Trinamool Congress has announced that it will hold marches against the shutdown call. Besides deploying force at government offices and establishments, the administration is also trying to provide security to officials and employees who attend work on Monday in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Mirik and other areas. Police has been asked to take steps to prevent arson and destruction of public property.

The state government circular, asking employees to report to work, has exempted employees who are hospitalised or if there is a death in the family. Those severely ill from before June 9 (when the unrest began) and those whose maternity leave, medical leave or earned leave was sanctioned before June 9 have also been exempted.

Meanwhile, five GJM workers were arrested in connection with incidents of arson on Thursday. Sanjib Tamang, Rabindra Pradhan, Tika Tamang, Santosh Thapa and Bhuban Giri were produced in court and remanded in police custody for two days. On Sunday, Darjeeling and the adjoining areas remained normal, but the number of tourists had dropped considerably.

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