DARJEELING: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has asked tourists to leave Darjeeling and warned those who stay on during its attempted lockdown of administrative offices and banks that they are doing so “at their own risk”.
“The situation is turning worse, and anything can happen. The tourists must understand this. If they wish to stay back, they may do so at their own risk. I appeal to them (tou rists) to leave,” GJM president Bimal Gurung said after a party meeting in Patleybas near Singamari on Sunday . Gurung’s “appeal”, which will hit the Hills economy and its residents much harder than tourists, came after yet another signal from the Mamata Banerjee government that it intended to clamp down on the stir with all its might. The state reacted sharply . “This is an ex tra-constitutional diktat, blatantly illegal. Tourists are free to go to the Hills. Gurung heads a legally mandated self-autonomous council; he isn’t above the law himself,” said state tourism minister Goutam Deb.
Like the last three days, Sunday also saw a huge rush of tourists trying to get out of the Hills. “We had booked a hotel from Thursday to Sunday in Darjeeling, but because of the unrest we stayed in Kurseong,” said Dipanjan Mullick, the zonal head of a private bank in Kolkata, who had gone holida ying with his wife and child.”On Saturday , we had been to Darjeeling for a few hours and came back to our hotel in Kurseong before evening. But we came back to Kolkata on Sunday . I didn’t want to take any chance, with the strike and agitation. I love the Hills and would be happy to go back, but not before the situation gets better,” he added.
Cops arrested five GJM supporters, ostensibly for their role in Thursday’s violence during the state cabinet meeting, but Nabanna insiders ad mitted that the arrests -just a day before the GJM stir -had twin purposes. “Yes, the five GJM supporters who were arrested were caught on CCTV taking active part in Thursday’s violence,” a senior official said. “But this is also a signal to the GJM before it starts its stir. The CM has made it very clear that she wants to tackle this head-on because the stir’s impact on the Hills economy will be detrimental to Hills residents’ interests.” On Saturday night, police arrested Sanjiv Ta mang, Bhuwan Giri, Santosh Thapa, Rabindra Pradhan and Dhan Maya Tamang from their respective homes in Darjeeling. “The five accused were identified in the CCTV footage during the clash on Thursday near the Gorkha Ranga Manch Bhawan. There will be more raids and arrests,” police said.
Stiff penal sections like arson, rioting and attack on onduty policemen have been slapped against the accused.They were produced in the Darjeeling chief judicial magistrate’s court. The four men were remanded in two days’ police remand; the lone woman arrested was forwarded to the district correctional home. Gurung warned the situation would turn for the worse if the state government conti nued their “atrocities”.
The state chose to issue an official notification on Sunday that all its offices will remain open in Darjeeling and Kalimpong and also made it mandatory for employees to attend work. The order said: “It has also been decided that no leave shall be granted to any employee on any of these bandh da ys.” Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, the statement said, has also decided that absence of employees on any of these days will be treated as “dies non”, which will constitute a break in service, for which no salary will be given unless in emergency circumstances.
Darjeeling district magistrate Joyoshi Dasgupta war ned that action would be taken against anyone who tries to prevent government employees from attending office. “Five companies of paramilitary forces that were already in the Hills are still deployed. Army personnel, however, didn’t patrol the streets on Sunday for the situation is normal,” she said. In the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the state and GJM, Gurung’s attempt to reach out to other Hills parties on June 13, barring Trinamool, to resonate their Gorkhaland cause has evoked mixed response. Jana Andolan Party (JAP) president Harka Bahadur Chhetri said the allparty meet was an SOS by the beleaguered GJM, and lacked sincerity . A new GTA body needs to be elected within August 14. Chhetri, who had severed ties with GJM in 2015 and floated JAP , wants GJM to pressure BJP to bring a bill for Gorkhaland in the monsoon session.
The All India Gorkha League (AIGL) said it would not attend the meet called by a party whose “hands were full of blood”. The Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxist (CPRM) and CPM said they would first go through the contents of GJM’s invitation.