Strikes close down Darjeeling district

One of our volunteers has had to abandon her teaching assignment in the village of Mungpoo because of a strike called by the Gorkha Jankukti Morcha which is campaigning for a separate Gorkhaland. She and her husband were bussed down from Darjeeling to Siliguri, at the foot of the Himalayas, by the police yesterday just before they were due to travel to Mungpoo.

The ‘India Blooms News Service’ reports the following

Darjeeling/Siliguri/Jalpaiguri, Feb 11 (IBNS) Life remained shut for the third consecutive day in the hills of Darjeeling on Friday while scarcity of essential commodities became acute as the indefinite strike, called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, continued.

Uncertainty continued to prevail in the three hill-subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong besides the Terai and Dooras in Jalpaiguri district of north Bengal over recurring clashes between pro-Gorkahnd and anti-Gorkhaland supporters and vandalising government property over the past three days.

The shutdown has been called protesting the February 8 police firing at Sipchu in Jalpaiguri in which two Morcha supporters were killed.

Transport movement to Sikkim and rest of the northeast continued to be affected.

The government has clamped prohibitory orders in several places of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts to prevent rival forces from organizing rallies.

The GJM has been attempting to organise rally in support of ‘Gorkhaland’ and highlight the police firing, while the tribals of the plains and Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee members are opposing division of West Bengal.

An anti-Gorkhaland march to the hills, ‘Darjeeling Chalo’, was prevented by police on Thursday by detaining about 150 participants at the Tenzing Norgay bus terminus in Siliguri.

Life has almost collapsed in the hills with no vehicles plying, government offices remaining shut, business coming to a halt and stocks of ration dwindling fast with no supply coming from the plains.

The silence prevailing in the area was occasionally broken by the screech of security vehicles as the Border Security Force and Central Reserve Police Force jawans intensified patrolling.

Schools along NH 55 between Siliguri and Sukna remained open today as the Morcha allowed students to travel only in school vehicles.

The GJM said said it would allow outstation students, appearing for board examinations, but the vehicles carrying them must have ‘on exam duty’ stickers pasted on them.

But inadequate logistical support make the school authorities doubtful about the exams being held successfully.

Several nationalised banks, which are the custodians of question papers, are shut due to the strike.

The institutions have requested boards to allow an exemption and permit the main exam centres in each area to keep the question papers.

The ISC practical exams in science subjects are scheduled to start on Monday and many outstation students have not been able to return to their schools because of the strike.

Around 500 students are expected to sit for the ISC practical exams.

Jalpaiguri district magistrate Bandana Yadav refused to give permission for a GJM rally, proposed to be taken towards Jaigon on Friday.

The administration would not give any permission to anyone for holding public meeting or a rally at this situation after Sipchu violence, she said.

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