Darjeeling virtually shut down today after a strike call by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha. (AFP)
Darjeeling, West Bengal: Not just Darjeeling, several places across in north Bengal went into agitation mode today. In the hills, the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha supporters were lathicharged in Darjeeling town. In Jalpaiguri district, more than 100 km away, tea garden works were lathicharged when they blocked a national highway to demand higher wages. The two agitations have converged after the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha extended its support to the two-day general strike called by the trade unions today. The worst-hit have been the tourists, who got out of the area en masse today.
Here are the 10 latest developments in this story:
- Darjeeling came to a virtual standstill as shops closed and transport remained off the roads. Some of the schools in the popular hill town declared a holiday.
- As the transport system shut down, tourists from Bangladesh and several parts of India got stranded. Many were seen waiting at bus stations since morning. Around 10 am, two state government buses arrived and the tourists left under police escort.
- The GJM protesters took out a march in Darjeeling and were lathicharged by the police. The Morcha said lathicharge was unprovoked.
- Huge police presence was seen in Darjeeling's Singhamari, outside the offices of the GJM. There is heavy army presence in the city as well.
- Around 300 tea garden workers started a dharna outside the Morcha office, shouting pro-Gorkhaland slogans. The police pushed them back.
- So far the police have arrested seven persons - three for attempted arson at a government office yesterday and four others for the violence in the area on June 8. One of them is a senior leader of the morcha, Satish Pokhral.
- The agitation flared up after a relatively peaceful Day 1 of the strike. Schools had remained open and government offices had recorded good attendance.
- As Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee just stopped short of calling the bandh a flop, the Gorkha leaders hit back. GJM leader Bimal Gurung had said the strike yesterday was mild because they had not enforced it.
- The protests, spearheaded by the GJM, started last week over fears that the state government was forcing the mostly-Nepali speaking children of the hill-town to learn the Bengali language at school.
- While the strike was mainly called to keep government employees away from offices, the state government said absenteeism will be severely punished. The Chief Minister said she doesn't take kindly to threats. "If someone asks me lovingly to wash their dishes, I will do even that. But I don't bow down to threats," Ms Banerjee had said.
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