Darjeeling hills shutdown sees clashes, road blockade

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SILIGURI - Clashes, road blockade and thin traffic marked the first day of the 27-day phased strike called by the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJM) in the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling district to pressurise the central government into accepting their demand for a separate Gorkhaland state.

Normal life was paralysed in the hills as streets of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong sub-divisions wore a deserted look with most of the shops and markets downing shutters and offices remaining closed.

Stones were pelted at one of the cars coming from Sikkim and logs of woods were placed on National Highway 31A connecting Sevoke with Sikkim. Police later cleared the road, but traffic on the highway was less than on normal days.

“Shops were closed. The traffic was also very less than normal days although cars from Sikkim did ply. The protesters tried to block the NH-31A by felling logs of wood, but police cleared the road,” said Superintendent of Police (Darjeeling) D.P. Singh.

Three activists of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) were injured in clashes with GJM supporters in Phoolbazar police station area of the district. One person was later arrested, a police official said.

GJM has decided to call the 27-day strike in phases. The first phase of the strike from Wednesday onwards ends Jan 15. The second phase will be between Jan 18 and Jan 25, and the third and final from Jan 29-Feb 12.

The Bimal Gurung-led GJM has been leading the Gorkhaland agitation for over two years by sidelining the GNLF, which had been spearheading the movement since the 1980s.

The GJM has called several indefinite shutdowns in the hills between 2008 and 2010, severely hitting timber and tourism - the hills’ bread and butter.

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