Thursday, 8 June 2017

Over 10,000 tourists stuck in Darjeeling as GJM supporters’ clash with police, Strike announced

Police fired tear gas shells and resorted to lathi charge to disperse the agitators who tried to march to the venue of the Mamata Banerjee-led government’s first Cabinet meeting in the hills here.
Anywhere between 10,000 to 15,000 tourists are stuck in West Bengal’s hill-town of Darjeeling with the state government compelled to call in the Army after a clash between the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters with police went out of hand.
Police fired tear gas shells and resorted to lathi charge to disperse the agitators who tried to march to the venue of the Mamata Banerjee-led government’s first Cabinet meeting in the hills here.
The GJM supporters also set fire to police vehicles, a government bus and attacked the police with stones and bottles, less than a kilometre away from where Mamata’s ministers were meeting.
GJM supporters tried to break the barricades put up by the police and hurled brickbats. They were protesting among other things ‘imposition of Bengali language in the schools in the hills’.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and most of the Cabinet ministers were present in the hill town apart from Chief Secretary, Home secretary and other high officials. The GJM supporters also held a dharna and raised slogans against the Chief Minister.
Shopkeepers at some places, including the Mall, downed their shutters while the traffic came to a halt, causing inconvenience to tourists. The GJM has also called for an indefinite bandh in Darjeeling, rendering the stranded tourists virtually helpless.  
The Cabinet meeting in Darjeeling is what many see as the TMC’s attempt to secure a foothold in the hills. Its victory in the recently concluded Mirik municipality elections appears to have triggered political ambitions of the ruling party.
The CM announced that the government will set up a mini-secretariat for the hills in Darjeeling. The CM had also announced a new polytechnic college and a skill development centre at Mirik.
This was the first time that the armed forces were called to tackle the situation since Mamata assumed charge in March 2011. The last time the government took the help of the armed forces to restore law and order was in 2010 in Deganga in North 24 Parganas.