Darjeeling unrest: Tourists panic as GJM protests intensify on day 3; economic slowdown expected

The indefinite shutdown called by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) in the northern West Bengal hills entered its third day, fuelling fresh violence in Darjeeling.

The Centre had to dispatch 600 paramilitary personnel on Tuesday to assist the West Bengal government in restoring normalcy in violence-hit Darjeeling, which witnessed incidents of stone pelting and destruction of property.

The protests have had a crushing impact on Darjeeling's economy, with the tourism industry taking a major hit. According to a report in New Indian Express, almost 90 percent of domestic and international tourists have stopped coming to the town due to the ongoing agitation.

A group of tourists from Mumbai had to face the ire of the shutdown supporters, who stopped their vehicle and asked them to return.

Darjeeling. Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

According to a Times of India report, panic has gripped the remaining tourists in Darjeeling as GJM workers hit the road on Tuesday, intercepting tourist vehicles.

Roads were deserted; schools and colleges – despite being outside the purview of the shutdown – remained shut. Private cars did not hit the roads, while a section of shops did not roll up their shutters.

The West Bengal government on Monday had said that it has stepped up security measures for tourists even as tour operators flayed the Trinamool Congress regime for not doing enough.

On Tuesday, holding state chief minister Mamata Banerjee responsible, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had alleged that the situation had worsened due to her politics of "threat and intimidation".

Coming down heavily on Banerjee's handling of the renewed flare-up in Darjeeling Hills, Chowdhury said, "her politics of vengeance" and "confusing statements" have only stoked the fire.

The shutdown call given by GJM was mainly targeted at the central and state government offices, and at the hill development body, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. Educational institutions and transport were kept outside its purview.

The shutdown has led to spurts of violence in the state with several state government offices torched, vandalised or forcibly shut. The Block Development Office (BDO) in Darjeeling's Bijanbari, was allegedly torched by a group of GJM activists on Monday. Three GJM workers were arrested after the incident, and several others were detained.

The PWD office in Darjeeling town was also allegedly set on fire, while another BDO in Darjeeling district's Pulbazar was vandalised by pro-Gorkhaland activists on day one of the shutdown. A hydro project in Sonada was ransacked by the shutdown supporters, who also forcibly shut a panchayat office at Sukna.

The West Bengal hills have been on the boil for nearly a week after the GJM launched an agitation against what it called the state government's "attempt" to impose Bengali on the Nepali-speaking people of the region, even though Mamata has made it clear that there are no such plans for the hills.

As the movement gathered steam, the GJM revived the Gorkhaland demand.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Jun 14, 2017 13:59 PM

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