Featured Image: Police and paramilitary personnel patrol a deserted Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling town on Wednesday.
By A Newsman
Siliguri, 28 September: GIVING Bimal Gurung a fresh lease of political breath, the 12-hour dawn to dusk shutdown in Darjeeling Hills convened by his party Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) evoked a near total response today.
This is even as three ministers from Mamata Banerjee Cabinet, who camped in Kalimpong, Kurseong, and Darjeeling since yesterday, took to the streets from today morning along with Trinamool workers to foil the bandh.
Trinamool’s ally, Jan Andolan Party (JAP) of Harka Bahadur Cheetri, also took out anti-bandh rally in Kalimpong. But the rallies by Trinamool or JAP hardly have had any impact on the people of the Hills who have clearly sided with the bandh.
All shops, markets, and educational institutes remained closed throughout the day; private transports too were off the roads. The Sikkim National Transport did not operate its bus service between Siliguri and Gangtok today fearing trouble as the road passes through Darjeeling Hills.
The heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, however, operated its narrow gauge Toy Trains on schedule and the trains faced no blockade en route.
Children were seen playing on the streets of Darjeeling that remain pack with people and vehicles on a regular day; young traders made best use of the shutdown by going out for picnic by the brooks that flow through the Hills.
This is even as in view of the circular by the state government about disciplinary action against the absentees, employees turned up with large number at government offices all over the Hills. According to official figure, around 96 per cent employees reported for duty today morning.
The administration deployed a large number of armed police personnel and seven companies of Central paramilitary troops all over the Hills to prevent untoward incidents.
Despite this, there have been a few stray incidents of violence during the bandh. At Pedong in Kalimpong, the front and rear windscreen of a Mahindra car belonging to a Trinamool worker were smashed by GJM supporters; at Kurseong two Innova cars belonging to tourists were damaged by bandh picketers.
Again at Kurseong, the popular Bikash Restaurant was vandalised allegedly by Trinamool workers for declining to stay open. The owner has lodged an FIR at Kurseong police station over this.
At Kalimpong, GJM supporters organised an agitation against the police for not allowing them take out a rally even as Trinamool and JAP were allowed to hold rallies against the bandh.
At Mirik, GJM activists confined Trinamool workers to their local office for over an hour till police came to their rescue.
During the day, police detained nearly 400 GJM supporters for trying to enforce bandh in different parts of the Hills by resorting to road blockades or taking out rallies.
Tourists who arrived at New Jalpaiguri railway station or Bagdogra airport during the day did not dare ascend to the Hills fearing trouble. They instead spent the day in Siliguri, waiting for the bandh hours to pass so that they can visit the Hills.
GJM called the 12-hour bandh demanding that the state government must provide breakup and documentary evidence in favour of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s recent claim that the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) had been allocated Rs 4,000 crore funds in the past four-and-a-half year.