Darjeeling remained tense but incident-free on Day Eleven of the indefinite shutdown, while, in a change of stand, agitation-spearhead the GJM decided to give a 12-hour bandh relaxation only for Muslims to celebrate Eid tomorrow. Security forces patrolled the streets as the situation in the hills where shops and markets, other than medicine outlets, remained shut and Internet services suspended.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership decided to give a 12-hour relaxation for the Muslim community to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr in the hills tomorrow, although party chief Bimal Gurung had earlier announced that there would be no such relief during the shutdown. “The Muslim community in the hills will be given a 12-hour relaxation on June 26, from 6 am to 6 pm, to celebrate Eid,” a senior GJM leader said.
Muslims can also use vehicles with stickers mentioning the purpose to go to the plains and meet their relatives, he said, adding except this, everything would remain the same. “Shops and markets will remain closed and no cars will come in or go out of Darjeeling. The shutdown will continue as it has been the last 10 days,” the leader said. The GJM had given a similar 12-hour relaxation to boarding schools of the hills on Friday to evacuate their students.
Meanwhile, the GJM head office in Singhmari, which was closed after the police raid on June 15, was opened today. Senior GJM leaders and supporters organised a rally from Chowkbazar to Singhmari GJM head office and opened the office amidst slogans of “we want Gorkhaland”. In a video message last night, Gurung had urged people to hit the streets, but also cautioned them that leaders from other parties might “try to betray” the Gorkhaland agitation. “We are ready for talks only on the issue of Gorkhaland, not on any alternative formula…. Remember that one day, everyone has to die. Either my body will go home or I will return with Gorkhaland,” he had said in the message.
Internet services remained suspended for the eighth day. Meanwhile, in Siliguri, an outfit ‘Amra Bangali’ (we are Bengalees) organised a rally in protest against the “separatist movement” of the GJM. “The Darjeeling hills are very much part of Bengal. Who are they (GJM) to demand a separate state?” an activist of the outfit said. Traders at the popular Hong Kong Market in Siliguri complained of huge losses as the tourist inflow had stopped. “This is the peak season. Tourists, either on their way to Darjeeling or during their return journey, visit our shops. But this time, due to the shutdown in the hills, we are facing huge losses,” said the owner of a garment shop.