Stray incidents of violence were reported from Darjeeling and nearby areas and six suspected Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters detained on the second day of the shutdown called by the outfit. The shutdown, which disrupted normal life in the hills, was called following raids at the premises connected to GJM chief Bimal Gurung and some other leaders An official said six suspected GJM supporters were on Friday detained after they set afire a forest office at Tarakhola, Kalimpong Thursday night.
A panchayat office in Mirik, 50 km from Darjeeling, was on Friday set ablaze by some suspected GJM supporters, the official said.
Normal life in the hills was affected in response to the shutdown with schools, markets and ATMs remaining closed. An examination could not be held at an IGNOU centre in Darjeeling in view of the bandh, he said.
Tourists were stranded as most hotels, restaurants and eateries remained shut. Few buses were available for coming down to Siliguri in the plains. “We are waiting for a bus since 5.30 am but not a single bus is available to take us to Siliguri,” Aninda Bhaduri, a tourist, said. “I have practical exams in Siliguri but there is not a single bus to take me there,” another tourist Swati Rai said.
A senior government official, on condition of anonymity, said, “We will not allow anybody to hamper law and order situation in the hills and law will take its own course. If anybody is found trying to break the law, he/she will face action and the administration will handle the situation in a very tough manner.”
Gorkhaland supporters had on Thursday hurled petrol bombs and stones and fought pitched battles with police even as the police burst teargas shells and used batons to disperse the crowd. The GJM had earlier called a shutdown of the offices of the state government and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), which its controls.
The Centre had on Thursday rushed an additional 400 paramilitary personnel to Darjeeling to help the local administration restore peace which was in addition to 1000 personnel already stationed there. Police had seized over 300 weapons, including pickaxes, bows and arrows, explosives, night vision binoculars and cash during yesterday’s raids on the premises connected with Gurung.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said, “We want peace in the hills. There is peace in Bengal. If anybody violates law, the administration will take action. Law will take its own course”.
GJM general secretary Roshan Giri accompanied by BJP MP from Darjeeling S S Ahluwalia had met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday and sought the Centre’s intervention to restore peace in the hill district and “foil” West Bengal government’s attempt to make Bengali language mandatory in schools. The GJM is an ally of the Centre’s ruling NDA.