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Darjeeling hills paralysed as GJM's indefinite shutdown begins
Saturday August 3, 2013 8:11 PM, IANS

Normal life in northern West Bengal's Darjeeling hills came to a halt as an indefinite shutdown convened by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in support of a separate Gorkhaland state began Saturday.

Central and state government offices, private establishments, commercial outlets, schools and colleges remained shut while vehicles stayed off the roads in the three Darjeeling hill subdivisions - Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong - with people largely staying indoors, officials said.

"The situation is peaceful," said Darjeeling District Magistrate Soumitra Mohan.

Violence erupted in the hills Thursday night when alleged GJM activists set fire to a police camp at Pokhriabong in Kurseong sub-division inflicting burn on two home guards, one of whom is serious.

A forest bungalow at Takdha under Darjeeling Sadar was also burnt down, while attempts were made to torch two police vehicles.

Five people were arrested in connection with the Pokriabong incident, said Superintendent of Police Kunal Agarwal.

Five companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, now deployed in the three hill subdivisions, were conducting route marches and patrolling to maintain peace. Three companies of the state government's Indian Reserve Battalion and combat force also maintained a tight vigil.

GJM activists took out rallies, lit torches, picketed before offices, held sit-ins and raised slogans demanding Gorkhaland in the main intersections of Darjeeling town and other sub-divisions. They also stopped and checked emergency vehicles.

National Highway 31A, connecting Siliguri in Darjeeling district with Gangtok - the capital town of Sikkim - was open, but very few vehicles plied, said Additional Superintendent of Police, Kalimpong, Sangmit Lepcha.

However, tea gardens and cinchona plantations remained open.

The hills have been on the boil after the GJM intensified their movement demanding Gorkhaland to be carved out of parts of Darjeeling and its neighbouring Jalpaiguri district following the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance's endorsement of statehood to Telangana.

A GJM delegation led by its general secretary Roshan Giri is now in Delhi, intending to hold talks with union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and other central leaders on their demand.

GJM supremo Bimal Gurung has already resigned as chief executive of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) - an autonomous and elected hill development council.

The Gorkhaland movement has left many dead over the past two decades, besides affecting the region's economy based on tea, timber and tourism.

On July 18, 2011, a tripartite agreement was signed between the GJM and the state and central governments for setting up the GTA, armed with more powers than its predecessor, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council formed in the late 1980s.

The GJM now runs the GTA after sweeping its maiden elections in July last year.

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