Gorkhaland activists lie down on roads in protest in Darjeeling
On the seventh day of an indefinite bandh, Darjeeling has been plunged into a news blackout. Not just news, all channels are off for those using cable.
Last night, the local administration shut down two cable operators because they could not produce original official papers.
But Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which has called the indefinite bandh to press for a separate state of Gorkhaland, claims the blackout is because the cable operators were showing pro-Gorkhaland news channels.
On Thursday night, about 8:30 pm, the police and a magistrate marched into the offices of Darjeeling Combined Cable Network (DCCN) and Darjeeling Milky Way Cable and demanded to see original documents, including the certificate of registration, NOC from appropriate authorities, list of channels broadcast and list of consumers.
When the employees at the cable operators said they did not have original papers and the owners did, the police shut down their operations.
Suraj Dewan, owner of DCCN, said, "All the original papers were with me and I wasn't in office at 8:30 pm. My staff said they would produce the papers on Friday but the police would not listen. Now, there is no cable TV in all of Darjeeling."
The police left behind a handwritten note, that's all.
But Gorkha Janmukti Morcha suspects the cable operators were shut down for showing at least three channels that were airing pro-Gorkhaland news and views, including Darjeeling TV, Hamro Channel and another one that carries messages from the Morcha.
"The West Bengal government and the district administration is doing all this suppress our movement. This is a violation of the freedom of expression."
Protesters on the streets of Darjeeling are also outraged.
Priya Pandit, a Darjeeling resident, said, "We need to know what's going on in Darjeeling but we are no longer able to find out. We also don't know what is going on in the rest of the country, unless you have your own dish. How many do?"
Another Darjeeling resident, Lochan Gurung, was equally upset. "I think the state government has done this as a crackdown on the movement for Gorkhaland. It is very unfortunate," he said.
Indeed, as it is, the people of Darjeeling are angry with the Mamata Banerjee government on the Gorkhaland issue. The cable shut down is only going to alienate them further. The authorities have said the situation will be reviewed once proper papers are produced. But this is a long weekend. So, till Monday at least, Darjeeling will remain bereft of news.