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Darjeeling bandh resumes today

Special Correspondent

KOLKATA: A seven-day bandh in the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) resumes on Tuesday, two days after it was relaxed following a four-day shutdown in the region last week.

Tea gardens exempted

The bandh has been called by the GJM leadership to put pressure on the Centre to spell out its stand on the GJM demand for a separate “Gorkhaland”. Tea gardens have been exempted from the bandh.

Though the Gorkha-dominated pockets in the Terai and Dooars in the plains of north Bengal have been excluded from the ambit of the bandh, the GJM leadership has announced that its president Bimal Gurung will along with some associates go on a “padayatra” from Gorubathan in the Kalimpong sub-division to Jaigaon in Jalpaiguri district.

Clashes had broken out in Jaigaon on Sunday between GJM supporters and those of the Siliguri-based Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Baachao (Save Bengal and the Bengali language) Committee (BBBBC) over a two-day bandh called by the latter in protest against the “Gorkhaland” demand.

Prohibitory orders

Apprehending that the padayatra could precipitate trouble, the Jalpaiguri district administration will promulgate prohibitory orders under Section 144 in Dooars areas, District Magistrate Vandana Yadav told The Hindu over telephone from Jalpaiguri.

The orders are already in force in Jaigaon.

“Mr Gurung will march to Jaigaon where he will address a rally seeking harmony between communities and to assure the Gorkhas of the region that the GJM is behind them”, senior GJM leader and member of its central committee Harka Bahadur Chettri said.

The GJM has threatened a15-day bandh from January 29 and a fast-unto-death by its senior leaders from February 16 unless the Centre clarifies its stand on the statehood issue by then.

“We are only intensifying our movement for a separate state, having decided that we are not engaging in any further discourse with the Centre or the State Government on the issue of interim council”, Dr Chettri said.

“Even if the interim council is finally put in place, the Centre should spell out what happens once the council's tenure is over in 2012. What happens then? Will we be left in a limbo?” he asked.

Referring to the Srikrishna Committee report on the Telengana issue and the options it has offered, Dr. Chettri said: “Why has there been no such initiative on the part of the Centre regarding Gorkhaland? We shall not be going to the Centre with any further appeal…the Centre has now got to get in touch with us.”

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