Janamukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung Saturday demanded an
apology from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for hurting the
sentiments of the people of the northern hills of West Bengal, and
normal life was hit hard in the region following a 12-hour
shutdown called by the pro-Gorkhaland outfit.
The shutdown was called to protest the state government's move to
form the proposed Lepcha Development Council (LDC).
"Relation toot gaya hai (the relationship has broken down). It
will not mend. Even if the chief minister comes (to us), nothing
will happen," Gurung said.
"People of the hills are very sad at what the chief minister said
in Darjeeling. She has to apologise before the people of the
hills," Gurung told reporters here while rejecting Banerjee's
remarks made at a function in Darjeeling last month.
"We must not say anything which will give a wrong message. It is
neither your party's programme nor my party's programme. I am very
rough and tough in this regard," she had said after some GJM
activists waved posters that read "We want Gorkhaland" and shouted
slogans pressing for the creation of a separate state of
The shutdown was total but peaceful in the three hill
sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseyong - now under
the new hill development agency Gorkhaland Territorial
Administration (GTA) run by the GJM.
Shops and commercial establishments remained closed and vehicles
mostly kept off the roads.
But vehicles plied on the vital National Highway number 31 A -
connecting Siliguri in Darjeeling district with Sikkim's capital
The GJM supporters allowed vehicles with Sikkim number plates
while stopping those with West Bengal number plates in the border
town of Rangpo under Kalimpong sub-division.
Additional Superintendent of Police Sangmit Lepcha said: "The
National Highway 31A is open."
"There is an intense police patrolling. No untoward incidents have
Meanwhile, North Bengal Development Minister Gautam Deb, who
arrived here Friday night with what he called "a mission for
peace, development and dialogue", drove towards Kalimpong Saturday
evening apparently to hold talks with members of the Lepcha
community who are on hunger strike since Thursday.
Protesting under the banner of the Lepcha Rights Movement, the
Lepcha community members are demanding creation of a Lepcha
council and are opposing the GJM-sponsored shutdown.
Lepchas are the indigenous tribals of Sikkim and surrounding
hills, including Darjeeling.
Gurung, however, contended that Deb has come with a "divisive
agenda". "They are trying to divide the hills. They want riots in
Gurung announced that the GJM would hold a public meeting at
Kalimpong Feb 17, and at Sukna near Siliguri March 10.
GJM assistant general secretary Jyoti Rai said: "We are not
against LDC (Lepcha council). We have no objection if the
government forms the council. But it should be formed under the
On Tuesday, the state government decided to form the LDC in an
apparent bid to put pressure on the GJM which recently revived its
demand for a new state of Gorkhaland to be carved out of parts of
The dragging campaign for Gorkhaland has led to the loss of many
lives over the past two decades, besides hitting the region's
economic mainstays - tea, timber and tourism.
On July 18, 2012, a tripartite agreement was signed between the
GJM and the state and central governments for setting up a new
autonomous, elected GTA -- a hill council 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 territorial
elections in July 2012.