As the indefinite shutdown called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJMM) demanding for a separate state of Gorkhaland entered its eighth day,markets and shops continued to remain closed,with supporters favouring a separate Gorkhaland shouted slogans.
Narayan Pradhan,president of GJM Darjeeling Town Committee,was arrested in the early hours of Saturday in connection with cases of arson and attempt to murder. Acting on a tip-off,he was taken into custody from a location in Darjeeling town,taking the total number of arrests to 149 in the hills,the police said.as the indefinite bandh to demand for separate Gorkhaland state in Darjeeling hills entered its eighth day with the hill station wearing a deserted look.
Reports of shortage of food surfaced across the hills. Shops and other commercial establishments have been closed since the beginning of the indefinite bandh. Vehicular traffic on National Highway-31A,the lifeline of Sikkim,was also hit,according to sources. GJM leaders and supporters gathered at the main areas and at District Magistrate’s office in Darjeeling town and raised slogans asking for implementation of their demands and release of arrested leaders. Meanwhile,three local cable TV operators have been ordered yesterday to stop telecast in Darjeeling hills.
Meanwhile,armed with a Calcutta High Court order to maintain normalcy in Darjeeling hills,West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday gave a 72-hour deadline to the GJM to call off its indefinite bandh or else face action.
“Enough is enough. I have tolerated for eight days. I am very rough and tough. I am giving 72 hours to withdraw the bandh. Do not force me to take strong action”,Banerjee told journalists at a press conference at the state secretariat.
Ruling out division of Bengal,she said,”Darjeeling is part and parcel of West Bengal. Darjeeling is my heart. There can be no division of the state based on race”.
Claiming that the GJM has become unpopular in the hills for forcibly enforcing the bandh which was leading to harassment and hardship to the people there,she cited the high court order to ensure normal life in Darjeeling.
“I have some constitutional obligations. There is a high court order and also a Supreme Court order on bandhs”,she said.
She further added that the government is ready for talks if indefinite bandh withdrawn in Darjeeling,but no division of state.
“There is no difficulty in holding talks if they withdraw the bandh. They can approach the chief secretary and the home secretary,but I have visited Darjeeling 25 times and will go again”,she said.
Attacking the Centre,she referred to ‘some politicians’ and said,”do not try to play the divide and rule politics. Let us stick with unity and think unity”.