Darjeeling (WB) : Eight suspected Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activists were detained today for indulging in arson as a GJM-sponsored shutdown of government offices began this morning.
The hill station of Darjeeling wore a deserted look as the shutdown began amid tight security.
Several hotels were closed and very few vehicles were on the roads and the Toy Train did not ply from here. However, transport and hotels were exempted from the bandh.
Schools and colleges were also exempted from the purview of the shutdown, called by the GJM for reviving its demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.
Most eateries, shops, markets and private offices downed their shutters and GJM party flags were seen fluttering all over the hills.
State police sources said, around eight persons allegedly belonging to the GJM were detained this morning for trying to set on fire a BDO office at Phulbazar in Bijanbari block.
“A quick response from the fire department and an alert administration helped us avoid any untoward incident.Around eight persons have been detained,” he said.
Darjeeling District Magistrate Joyoshi Dasgupta told PTI, “The situation is peaceful here till now. Everything is normal and people have already started arriving at offices.
Attendance in school is also normal. We have taken all precautionary measures to check any untoward incident.”
Police pickets, barricades have been placed in front of government offices, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) offices and RAF and a sizeable number of women police personnel have been deployed, Dasgupta said.
“The administration will act as per the law if anybody is found forcing others as well as establishments to participate in the bandh,” the DM said.
She said that the Army was present in the hills as a “backup”.
“The administration will also see that no tourist faces trouble because of the bandh. We will not allow anything or anybody to disturb normal life here in the hills,” she stated.
The GJM had issued a diktat to banks to open only twice a week.
GJM president Bimal Gurung has asked tourists to leave the hills because of the possibility of occurrence of “untoward” incidents.
When contacted, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said the party will “appeal” to the people to participate in the bandh and not go to offices.
“We will appeal to the people not to go to offices and make our bandh successful. We will hold a torch rally later in the evening,” Giri said over phone.
To counter the shutdown, the state government has ordered all its employees and those of the institutions receiving grants-in-aid from it to attend office on all days till the agitation continues, warning that absence from duty will be considered as a break in service.
Last Thursday, GJM supporters clashed with police when they tried to break the barricades following which police had restored to lathicharge. The GJM supporters had damaged police vehicles and set some of them ablaze as a cabinet meeting was on at the Raj Bhawan here.
GJM supporters, who were protesting among other issues against alleged “imposition of Bengali language in the schools in the hills”, called for a 12-hour bandh the following day.
The Army had to be called out in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong to restore peace.