Darjeeling: The political crisis in the Darjeeling Hills took a new turn on Wednesday with the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) breaking its alliance with the TMC and joining hands with agitation spearhead Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), saying the party has been fighting for Gorkhaland since its inception.
Emboldened by the GNLF aligning with his party, GJM chief Bimal Gurung threatened to intensify the movement for a separate Gorkhaland even as the indefinite shutdown in the government and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) offices entered its third day.
The GNLF, formed by the late firebrand leader Subhash Ghisingh, had led a violent movement for Gorkhaland in the eighties, following which the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) was formed.
Gurung broke away from the GNLF and formed the GJM in 2007 and subsequently emerged as the dominant force in the hills. "The GNLF, since its inception in the eighties under the leadership Subhash Ghisingh, has been fighting for Gorkhaland. Our ultimate goal is to achieve a separate state of Gorkhaland," Neraaj Zimba, spokesperson of the GNLF, told PTI.
He said the alliance with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) was never a political or ideological one, but an electoral tie-up.
The TMC is trying to deflect attention from the real demand of Gorkhaland through "doles and charity", Zimba said.
No untoward incident was reported from Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik during the day and despite the bandh call, the state government offices remained open.
Vehicles plied as the police remained on high alert and patrolled the streets. Banks and most ATMs were closed, but shops and markets were open.
Most of the tourists have left the hills and hotels were empty. Hotel owners told the tourists, who still remained, that they could stay, but at their own risk.
GJM workers gathered in front of the food and supply office in Kurseong but left following police intervention. The GJM, along with other hill parties, took out rallies in several areas of the hills demanding Gorkhaland.
Police pickets and barricades were placed in front of the government and the GTA offices, in which the GJM is enforcing an indefinite shutdown which entered its third day on Wednesday, and at various entry exit points of the hills.
The Rapid Action Force (RAF) and a sizeable number of women police personnel were also deployed.
The Centre had deployed 600 paramilitary personnel to assist the West Bengal government restore normalcy in the violence-hit area.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met Governor KN Tripathi in Kolkata and briefed him about the situation in the hills. The state government has removed Donbosco Lepcha, the secretary of the GTA, and appointed C Murugan as the new secretary, a notification issued by the Personnel and Administrative Reforms and e-Governance Department, said on Tuesday.
The state government had recently replaced GTA principal secretary Ravi Inder Singh and brought in Barun Ray. Justifying his party's stand to break its alliance with the TMC, Zimba said, "The Gorkhas were ditched by successive state governments. We now feel that the atmosphere in the hills is fully conducive for the creation of a separate state. The GJM is also an ally of the NDA, which is in power at the Centre." He said, "It is true that we have differences among the players in the hills, but for the sake of the people we have decided to keep aside our differences and fight for Gorkhaland."
Gurung, who threatened to intensify the movement for Gorkhaland, asked tourists not to visit the hill station as they might be inconvenienced. "I will not welcome the tourists because they may face problems. There will be agitation, bandh in the hills... Indefinite bandh has been called in the government and the GTA offices. The movement for Gorkhaland will be intensified," he said.
Gurung said that he will shortly resign from the post of the GTA chief executive but the GJM MLAs and the municipal councillors will not step down.
State tourism minister Gautam Deb slammed Gurung for his statement. "Darjeeling is not anybody's property. He should not make such utterances. None is above the law," he said.
Senior GNLF leader N B Chetri earlier said, "Why so many questions are raised over joining hands with the GJM? The TMC on several occasions had joined hands with the BJP and the Congress. In politics such things do happen."
He said, "We won't allow an opportunist political party like the TMC to benefit from the infighting among various parties in the hills."
Published Date: Jun 14, 2017 22:08 PM | Updated Date: Jun 14, 2017 22:08 PM