On Day 1 Of Darjeeling Strike, Government Offices Work As Usual: 10 Facts

The protest by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha began over a perceived "Bengali must" policy but has now escalated to the decades-old demands for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

The Darjeeling protest started after Mamata Banerjee's decision to make Bengali compulsory upto Class 10.

Darjeeling: The indefinite shutdown called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha in Bengal's popular hill-town Darjeeling, has fallen flat on Day One, the Mamata Banerjee government has said. While the Chief Minister stopped short of calling it a flop, the GJM said it could have, but did not, enforce the bandh. Attendance in government offices was "normal" in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik, said state tourism minister Gautam Deb. 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.

Here are the top 10 updates in this story:

  1. Tourism Minister Gautam Deb said, "The people have defied GJM's diktat and attended office. We hope good sense will prevail on the GJM leadership".  The local authorities said attendance at schools was normal and the situation was peaceful.

  2. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said she doesn't take kindly to threats. "If someone tells me in a loving way to wash their dishes, I will do even that. But I don't bow down to threats," she said. "They threw bombs for two days and then you see them run away. Goondas (hooligans) can never be country's asset. The hill people are very good."

  3. The Chief Minister has warned that absenteeism in government office will not be tolerated. Employees bunking work will lose salary and face action if their day off is counted as a break in service. Bandh or no bandh, staff must go to work in Darjeeling, a government notification said yesterday.

  4. Darjeeling, though, bore a deserted look as most eateries, shops, markets and private offices remained closed. Very few vehicles were seen on roads. Even the extremely popular Toy Train did not ply on its return journey from Darjeeling to Siliguri.

  5. Government offices turned fortresses, with the police placing barricades around them to ensure that the GJM could not hold pickets at these spots and stop employees from entering.

  6. Three men were arrested for attempting to set a government office on fire at nearby Phulbazar.

  7. Tourists in the hill-town, which survives on tourism, were also told that it was advisable to leave.  But despite GJM chief Bimal Gurung's advise, a many tourists arrived on Sunday evening to the week-end getaway.

  8. The confrontation between the state government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha began over a perceived "Bengali must" policy but has now escalated to the decades-old demands for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

  9. Ms Banerjee had announced a decision to make the Bengali language compulsory in all schools from class 1 to 10 last month. But following protests, the government clarified that it would not be compulsory.

  10. Mr Gurung has challenged Ms Banerjee to stop the agitation, declaring that he is the "chief minister of the hills" and that his word is followed there.