GJM embarks on indefinite stir, hunger strike
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) Thursday called for an indefinite "ghar bahira janata" (people on the streets) agitation in West Bengal's Darjeeling Hills, and said its leaders would also go on a hunger strike following the arrest of one of its office-bearers.
Party assistant general secretary Benoy Tamang, along with six party workers, was arrested from near the Sikkim-Bengal border in Darjeeling district Thursday morning in connection with some old cases.
"Tamang and the others were rounded up from Rangpo in connection with cases like putting up road blockade and preventing police officers from carrying out their duties," said Kalimpong Additional Superintendent of Police Sangmit Lepcha.
The seven were later sent to 14 days judicial custody by a court.
The GJM said the protest will continue until its leaders are released.
GJM supremo Bimal Gurung, who earlier in the day announced a two-day shutdown beginning Saturday, later declared an indefinite "ghar bahira janata".
Following the Calcutta High Court declaring the shutdown, including the peoples' curfew, as illegal, the GJM has changed its mode of protest, calling for people to protest in the streets.
The arrested GJM leaders led by Tamang will also go on an indefinite hunger strike.
"Ghar bahira janata agitation will continue indefinitely till GJM members are released and cases against them are withdrawn. The 721 arrested people who are in judicial custody will also go for an indefinite hunger strike," Gurung said.
Tamang, a close associate of the GJM supremo and an executive committee member of the hill development body Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), is the senior-most GJM leader to be arrested so far.
Over 700 GJM activists have been held by state authorities since the renewed protests for the formation of a separate Gorkhaland began last month, after the United Progressive Alliance central government approved the carving out of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh.
Gurung, who Wednesday had sought West Bengal Governor M.K. Narayanan's intervention in the matter, however, ruled out any dialogue with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her government.
"We will not talk to the state government. This matter concerns the centre and it will have to intervene," he said.
Meanwhile, Narayanan who earlier had expressed his willingness to talk to the GJM leadership, said the Gorkha outfit should first come to him if it wanted his intervention.
"If they want my intervention, let them come and ask," he told media persons in Kolkata.
The Gorkha outfit, which has accused Banerjee of going on an "arrest spree", said the state government is wrongly treating the issue as a law and order problem.
"The government is treating this as a law and order issue. Can a solution emerge like this? It has to be handled as a political issue, but the government is handling it administratively," said GJM legislator and spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chettri, adding that the movement cannot be curbed in such manner.
North Bengal Development Minister Gautam Deb defended the arrests, saying the GJM protests had been resulting in destruction to government properties and hindering development of the region.
Meanwhile, the opposition Left Front and the Congress have both blamed the Banerjee regime's "oppressive and provocative approach", saying it has caused a flare-up. They urged the government to call an all party meeting on the problem.
Leader of opposition and Left Front stalwart Surjya Kanta Mishra wrote to the governor seeking his intervention in the matter. He also welcomed Banerjee's decision to visit the Darjeeling hills early next month.
(Posted on 22-08-2013)