Gorkhaland agitation: Normalcy returns in Darjeeling as indefinite shutdown ends after 104 days

By IANS

Darjeeling: Leaving behind the days of shutdown and the miseries that followed, the picturesque hill station of Darjeeling on Wednesday bounced back to life following the withdrawal of the over three-month-long shutdown by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).

Markets reopened as people flocked to stores for shopping ahead of "Dasain" (Durga Puja), banks resumed operations and taxi-cab services re-started in the north Bengal hills.

"Fulpatti" (day of flowers) celebrations marking the seventh day of Dasain were held with zeal by residents carrying banana stalks, "Jamara" (barley sprouts) and sugar cane.

Representational image. Reuters

Ready to welcome prospective tourists, hotels and resorts also kick-started operations. As many as five hydel power projects in the area also resumed power generation.

Some hotels took to Twitter to announce that "Darjeeling has opened" after three months."

Glenary's, renowned for its confectionary products, was also ready to welcome visitors.

Shops at Sukhia Pokhri in Darjeeling district also opened as news about the strike being called off spread.

"Normal life resumed even before the formal announcement of withdrawal of shutdown. Transport and various trades started their operations. Operations also resumed in some of the tea gardens but some of these still remained closed as bonus was not yet paid to the workers in these gardens," said Binay Tamang, GJM's ousted leader and head of West Bengal government-appointed Board of Administrators (BoA).

The GJM had on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of its indefinite shutdown in the northern West Bengal hills and said the situation would return to normal from 6 am on Wednesday.

The announcement came hours after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh appealed to them to call off the over three-month-long strike and invited them for talks to find an amicable solution to the issue.

GJM Assistant General Secretary Jyoti Rai on Tuesday said: "After Rajnath Singh's appeal, we had a discussion with senior leaders, including GJM chief Bimal Gurung, and decided to withdraw the shutdown from 6 am tomorrow (Wednesday)."

In an audio clip from an undisclosed location, Gurung urged the hill residents to resume transport services, and reopen shops and schools and colleges. He also extended greetings for the festive season.

The GJM had called the shutdown, which was in its 104th day on Tuesday, demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.