Gorkhaland issue: Darjeeling observe 12-hour bandh, over 250 arrested by police

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Kolkata: Normal life in the hills of Darjeeling in West Bengal came to a grinding halt after the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) called a 12-hour bandh. Despite a Calcutta High Court order that the state government should ensure normalcy and normal life should not be disrupted, life in the hills remained affected to a large extent. As many as 250 GJM activists across – Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong were arrested by the police.

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Some areas adjoining the Darjeeling-Jalpaiguri district saw complete shutdown. While no reports of major violence were reported but the situation remained tensed with the ruling – Trinamool Congress taking out rallies, headed by state tourism minister Gautam Deb and GJM taking out counter rallies. Report of a vehicle being vandalised was reported in Pedong in Darjeeling district. 

The 12-hour bandh was called by the GJM in support of a separate state of Gorkhaland and also the present condition of tea garden employees. The bandh was also called to protest against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's statement that she gave a few days back, while she was on a visit to Kalimpong that Rs.4,000 crore had been allotted to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) over four-and-a-half years.

“The state government is forcing us to call a strike. Our demand of a separate statehood is still not being fulfilled,” said Morcha president, Bimal Gurung. This bandh comes as a major flash point with the GJM going head on with the state government demanding a separate state.

Despite attempts by the district administration to maintain peace and normal functioning of the district, most vehicles remained off the streets. In most areas, shops remained closed. The Darjeeling district police beefed up security across the district to prevent any untoward incident.