GJM Suspends Darjeeling Shutdown Following Appeal by Rajnath Singh

Although the strike was officially on in the hills but for the last one week, most of the shops and markets had reopened, defying the diktats by the GJM leadership.

Protesters rally on the streets of Darjeeling demanding Gorkhaland. Credit: PTI

Darjeeling: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has suspended the shutdown in the Darjeeling hills from this morning, in response to an appeal by Union home minister Rajnath Singh.

The indefinite shutdown by the GJM for a separate state of Gorkhaland began on June 15, and ended after 104 days.

“Our party supremo Bimal Gurung has decided to suspend the indefinite shutdown in the hills from 6 am tomorrow morning for an indefinite period. The decision was taken after Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s appeal to withdraw the strike,” GJM vice-president Kalyan Dewan told PTI on Tuesday.

Singh appealed to the GJM to withdraw the strike and asked the Union home secretary to convene an official-level meeting to discuss all related issues.

In a statement, the home minister said that in a democracy, dialogue is the only way out to resolve any problem and solutions can be found through restraint and mutual dialogue within the legal ambit.

Although the strike was officially on in the hills but for the last one week, most of the shops and markets had reopened, defying the diktats by the GJM leadership.

Also read: A People’s Account of the Ongoing Struggle for Gorkhaland

Reacting to the GJM’s decision to suspend the strike, state tourism minister and Trinamool Congress leader Gautam Deb said the central government has provided a face saver to GJM supremo Bimal Gurung. “More than 80% of the shops and markets in the hills have already opened up defying Gurung,” he said.

“My question is what took the central government so long and that too when the situation in the hills has already normalised,” he added.

In view of normalcy returning to Darjeeling hills, the state administration, on Monday, decided to lift the restrictions on use on internet services, which were imposed on June 18.

On September 20, the West Bengal government announced the constitution of a nine-member board of administrators with the same powers as Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, which is headed by Gurung.

Tamang and GJM leader Anit Thapa were made the chairman and vice chairman of the board.

Gurung, against whom cases have been lodged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and a lookout notice has been issued, is absconding since last month.

The GJM had earlier refused to engage in talks with the state government, saying they would only talk with the Centre.

On June 15, the police had raided the premises of Gurung and arrested some party activists, following which the outfit called for an indefinite shutdown in the hills. Arrows, sharp weapons and explosives were recovered during the raids.

Darjeeling has been on the boil since West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that Bengali had to be compulsorily taught to students up to class 10 in all state schools. Following her announcement, GJM supporters set fire to several police vehicles, a government bus and attacked the police with stones and bottles.

(With inputs from PTI)