Monday, November 29, 1999

GJM activists stone Sikkim-bound vehicles

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Siliguri, May 15 (IANS) Stone-throwing Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) activists damaged several Sikkim-bound vehicles, including two buses carrying army personnel, on the first day Saturday of a two-day shutdown called by the outfit in three north Bengal areas it wants carved out as a separate Gorkhaland state.Life came to a standstill in most of the areas under the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong in Darjeeling district with shops, markets and commercial establishments remaining closed and vehicles keeping off the roads in response to the shutdown.The GJM has been agitating for a separate Gorkhaland state comprising the three hill sub-divisions, as also the Terai (plains area covering Siliguri and adjacent zones) of Darjeeling and the Dooars (foothills of the Himlayas) in Jalpaiguri district.The attacks on the vehicles took place on National Highway 31A, considered the lifeline of the Himalayan state, near its border with West Bengal at Rangpo under Kalimpong sub-division, police sources said.'Four Sikkim Nationalised Transport buses, including two carrying army personnel, were stoned by suspected shutdown supporters. Three cars, including one of Hindi daily Dainik Jagran, were also damaged. Some bus and car passengers suffered minor injuries,' the sources said.'Some vehicles were detained and some other diverted by the agitationists. But when our men went to the spot they could not find any of the protestors,' they said.However, the shutdown had no impact in Siliguri, and life was largely normal in the Dooars.In the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling also, the shutdown had no effect in areas dominated by the newly formed anti-GJM front comprising Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL).Plucking of leaves went on unhindered in four tea gardens under the Jorabanglow police station and another at Simulbari under the Kurseong police station.However, GJM assistant general secretary Benoy Tamang said the shutdown was a total success.Political tempers are again running high in the hills with the GJM calling a 10-day shutdown June 12-21 to press for the Gorkhaland demand.GJM activists - led by party president Bimal Gurung - have been agitating for the separate Gorkhaland state besides opposing special status to the hill governing body, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).

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