In a change of stand, the GJM today decided to allow a 12-hour bandh relaxation only for the Muslims to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr in the Darjeeling hills tomorrow. “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 Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader said.
Muslims can also use vehicles with stickers mentioning the purpose to go to the plains and meet their relatives, he added.
“Except this, everything remains the same. The indefinite shutdown will continue,” he said. Earlier on Friday, GJM supremo Bimal Gurung had said that there would be no relaxation for Muslims to celebrate Eid, the biggest festival of the community. On the same day, the GJM had provided a 12-hour bandh relaxation to the boarding schools of the hills to evacuate the stranded students.
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Meanwhile, the GJM’s head office in Singhmari, which was closed after the June 15 police raid, was opened today.
Senior GJM leaders and supporters took out a rally from Chowkbazar to the GJM head office and opened it while shouting “We Want Gorkhaland”. GJM supporters also took part in other processions as the indefinite strike demanding a separate state of ‘Gorkhaland’, carved out of West Bengal, entered its 11th day today.
In a video message last night, Gurung had urged the people to hit the streets, but also cautioned them that the leaders from the 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. Barring medicine outlets, all other shops remained closed in the hills. Internet services remained suspended for the eighth day and the security forces continued to patrol the streets.
Meanwhile, in Siliguri, an outfit named ‘Amra Bangali’ (We are Bengalees) took out a rally to protest against the “separatist movement” of the GJM. “The Darjeeling hills are very much a part of Bengal. Who are they (GJM) to demand a separate state?” asked an activist of the outfit. 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.