Bandh by anti-Gorkhaland organisation evokes mixed response in West Bengal – utterly scared of the “Interim Set-up” solution even within Bengal, so independent Statehood only solution ?!!
Siliguri (Darjeeling District, WB) May 14 (PTI): Normal life was partially affected in the city and adjoining areas during a 24-hour bandh called by an anti-Gorkhaland organisation.
The statewide bandh was called by Bangla-o-Bangla-Bhasa Bachaon Committee (BOBBBC) in protest against the state and the central government’s “attempt to provide more autonomy and power to the hill council”.
The impact of the shutdown was, however, limited mainly to Siliguri and adjoining areas and partially in Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar district where Bengalis and adivasis (*?!!) are predominant, officials said.
Shops, business establishments, educational institutions, banks and post offices remained closed and vehicles kept off the road. Attendance in government offices was also thin.
Ten pro-bandh activists were arrested from Hasmi Chawk here for allegedly trying to enforce the bandh, a police official said.
The Northeast Frontier Railways diverted the Sikkim Mahananda Express, Kamakhya-Danapur Express, Kanchankanya Express and Kamakhya-Puri Express trains, a railway official said.
Meanwhile, BOBBBC president Mukunda Majumder said “they would strengthen their movement if the government did not retreat from giving more power to the council which would make no difference from a statehood”. (So, cannot make any political compromise – obstinacy its ruin ?!!)
Bandh paralyses Siliguri, Darjeeling’s turn today – absolutely unbiased ?!!
FROM THE INDIAN EXPRESS
BY SABYASACHI BANDOPADHYAY
Kolkata, May 15, 2010: Life in Siliguri was paralysed today during a bandh call given by Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Raksha committee, which is opposed to a separate state of Gorkhaland.
No respite seemed in the sight for the people in the region with a two-day bandh in the hills called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) beginning tomorrow.
“The chapter of interim council is closed. Now, we will talk of Gorkhaland only,” Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said.
Giri blamed the state government for the stalemate in talks. “During the official talks held last week, we wanted a discussion on inclusion of regions like Terai, Dooars and Siliguri.
But the West Bengal home secretary said they did not have the mandate to discuss the issue of territories. It seems the state government is not serious about solving the problem,” he said, adding the Morcha was not going to attend the talks on political level likely to be held on May 25.
Shutdown affects life in north Bengal towns
FROM THAINDIA NEWS
Siliguri, May 14 (IANS): Normal life was affected in the urban areas of several north Bengal districts Friday following a 24-hour shutdown called by the Bangla O Bangla Bhasa Bachao Committee against the demand of a seperate Gorkhaland state.
The committee, which seeks to save the state and the language and stridently opposes the demand for creation of a Gorkahland state out of parts of north Bengal, also protested against the tri-partite talks held in Delhi with the pro-Gorkhaland Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM).
Siliguri town in Darjeeling district virtually came to a standstill with shops, markets and commercial establishments downing shutters. Private vehicles did not ply, the district court remained closed, while offices recorded thin attendance.
The impact of the shutdown was also felt in Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri towns of the districts with the same names.
However, it was business as usual in the three Darjeeling district hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.
Tea gardens were also open in the Dooars or the Himalayan foothills in Jalpaiguri district.
Nine shutdown supporters were arrested from Siliguri for attempts to disrupt normal life, said Sub-divisional Officer (Siliguri) Rajat Kumar Saini.
Meanwhile, the GJM has called a two-day shutdown in the “proposed Gorkhaland territory” May 15 and May 16, demanding a separate state.
Political tempers are again running high in the hills with the GJM calling a 10-day shutdown from June 12-21 on the demand for the separate state.
GJM activists – headed by party president Bimal Gurung – have been agitating for the separate Gorkhaland state besides opposing special status to the hill governing body, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).
Shutdown in Siliguri against separate state demand
(Unconstitutional ploy to bifurcate Darjeeling District, by first ‘illegal infiltration’ and now by proxy political machismo ?!!)
FROM ASIA NEWS INTERNATIONAL
Siliguri (Darjeeling District, West Bengal), May 14 (ANI): A regional non-political group, Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Bachao Committee, called for a 24-hour shutdown in West Bengal’s Siliguri District on Friday to protest the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha’s (GJM) demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.
Opposing the demand of the GJM, the members of the committee said that West Bengal is for Bengalis, and the Gorkhas residing in the hills are outsiders.
“Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Bachao Committee called a 24-hour strike throughout West Bengal to protest and oppose the interim self-government as demanded by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, which amounts to partition of the state,” said Mukunda Majumdar, President of the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Bachao Committee.
The streets wore a deserted look and only a few government buses were plying during the shutdown.
The marketplaces and establishments belonging to supporters of the protest also remained closed during the shutdown.
Police personnel were deployed across the city to prevent any clashes.
“We have allowed them to carry out their agitation peacefully. But if they become unruly or stop vehicles and threaten drivers, then we are forced to take action against them,” said Aloke Dasgupta, Inspector in-charge at Siliguri Police Station.
“We have arrested about 12 persons, who indulged in some sort of violence, and have sent them to the police station,” he added.
Gorkhas, who are ethnic Nepalese, have been demanding a separate state in Darjeeling hills, to help them protect their culture and heritage. (ANI)
Deaths in Khasi-Nepali clash – The persecution on the Indian Gorkhas complete, or really from Nepal ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
Shillong/Guwahati, May 14: At least two persons were killed today when Assam police opened fire after a clash between two groups at Langpih (Lampi in Assam) on the Assam-Meghalaya border.
Unconfirmed reports put the toll at seven.
K.P. Pangniang, a member of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, told reporters in Shillong: “An altercation broke out between Khasis and Nepalis (or Indian Gorkhas ?!!) around 11.30am. As the skirmish snowballed, the Nepalis went to an Assam police camp. The personnel fired indiscriminately for 30 minutes.”
Pangniang said seven people were killed. He named five of the dead as Dismus Rani, Columbus Hujon, Charles Lyngkhoi, Detrus Nongsiej and Bring. “A man is still lying inside the boundary of the Assam police camp and a schoolgirl died after she was allegedly taken inside the camp,” he said.
But Kamrup police chief Partha Sarathi Mahanta said two persons had died.
Tourists stuck in bandh season – Bengal allowed to display parochial chauvinism ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
Siliguri, May 14: More than 2,000 tourists and local people were stranded in New Jalpaiguri station and Bagdogra on the first day of a rash of bandhs that started in the hills and plains of north Bengal today.
Many tourists, mainly foreigners, were caught unawares when they arrived. “We did not have any clue about today’s strike and it seems that we have to wait at least till evening to get out of here. We are desperate to reach Sikkim by tonight as in case we travel tomorrow morning, we may be stopped by the agitators,” said Glen McCarthy, an Australian, who had flown in from Calcutta.
With hardly any vehicles plying and taxi drivers sitting around at New Jalpaiguri station or Bagdogra airport throughout the day, passengers were forced to wait for hours. However, after 4.30pm, the drivers agreed to bring out their vehicles.
Today’s strike called by the Bangla Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee will be followed by a two-day shutdown in the hills from tomorrow by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad has threatened to call a bandh for three more days from May 17, if their demands on teaching jobs are not met. (any excuse – Bengal always the culprit ?!!)
The Morcha also has a 10-day strike in “Gorkhaland” lined up from June 12 to pile pressure on the government to include the Dooars and Terai in the interim set-up proposed for the Darjeeling hills. The boundary of the territory under the interim set-up would later form the separate state of Gorkhaland, the Morcha had said. The weekend shutdown is also part of the pressure tactics. The Bhasha Committee’s strike is against the interim set-up and Gorkhaland.
Traffic on NH31A to Sikkim was thin throughout the day although sources at the Sikkim Nationalised Transport said their buses plied normally. The Supreme Court had ordered the Bengal and the central governments to ensure that the highway, the only road link between Sikkim and the rest of the country, was kept open at all times.
However, a few visitors managed to make it to Darjeeling early in the morning. “We started from Siliguri at 5am and there was no problem reaching Darjeeling. We know about the strike starting tomorrow, but given the amount the tourists had spent we decided to take the chance,” said Arnab Chowrasia, a tour guide on arriving in Darjeeling.
Up in the hills, people thronged the markets to stock up for two days. Most of the tourists had left Darjeeling for Siliguri yesterday because of today’s strike in the plains.
Those coming down from the hills had to face problems as the vehicles they were travelling in dropped them off either at Sukna on NH55 or at Salugara on NH31. They had to walk at least 5km to reach Siliguri and then scout for accommodation.
“We reached Darjeeling yesterday afternoon from Sikkim and we had planned to stay there till Sunday afternoon since we have our railway reservation for Guwahati on Sunday evening,” said Sambhunath Roy, a resident of Guwahati, who returned to Siliguri today. He said he was looking for transport to reach New Jalpaiguri.
Arup Jana, a resident of Lake Town in Calcutta, and three of his friends, faced similar inconveniences. The group reached Darjeeling More at 11.30am in an auto-rickshaw at New Jalpaiguri “We are supposed to go to Sandakphu for trekking, but did not have any idea about the strikes here. After arriving in NJP, we came to know there is a strike at Siliguri and there will be strike in hills for next two days,” Jana said. “We had to pay Rs 200 for the vehicle to reach here and don’t have much choice. We plan to start for the hills today,” said Sanjib Dhali, a friend of Jana.
The strike was peaceful in and around Siliguri but 10 bandh supporters were arrested at Hashmi Chawk when they tried to stop a NBSTC bus from plying a local route.
Apart from Siliguri, a partial impact of the strike was felt in Alipurduar in Jalpiaguri district and in Cooch Behar. All tea estates in the Terai and Dooars were unaffected.
Sikkim fears early season death, Blow not to be limited to Darjeeling: Tour operators
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Gangtok, May 14: The coffers may be ringing for the time being as spurred by the weekend bandh in Darjeeling tourists made a beeline for Sikkim, but tour operators fear that the tourism season will come to a premature end.
The 10-day bandh of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha next month, they apprehend, will bring an early end to the tourist season not only in Darjeeling, but also in Sikkim.
“There has been some immediate impacts as a percent of tourists has started contacting tour operators (to know more about the strike) and some have already cancelled their trips. But the 10-day strike in the neighbouring Darjeeling hills in June is the most worrying factor here,” said a tour operator.
The general secretary of the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim, Lokendra Rasailly, said in the 10-day bandh, the foreign tourists would be most affected, as they would have connecting flights to take them back home.
“Tourists are also contacting the tour operators seeking a diversion or postponement. Diversion of tourists is very difficult as we have limited places as far as Sikkim and the Darjeeling region are concerned,” said Rasailly. The Northeast is a different route and Nepal is also disturbed, he said.
The immediate worry for Sikkim is NH31A, which has often been held hostage by protesters in neighbouring Bengal. People here fear that the two-day strike from tomorrow by the Morcha will hit Sikkim-bound traffic as well.
The Supreme Court had in a response to a petition asked the Centre and the Bengal government to ensure that the highway remained free of blockades. But though the Morcha had, after the court intervention, said the highway would be outside the purview of its agitation, there have been frequent incidents of stone throwing on vehicle plying the road during strikes called by the party. Most of the vehicles were forced to return to Gangtok.
But district collector (East) D. Anandan said he had been assured by his Darjeeling counterpart that the highway would remain open this time.
“The Darjeeling DM told me that NH31A would remain open during the two-day strike. I was told that the highway was out of purview of the strike,” said Anandan. “What actually happens, we have to wait and observe tomorrow. We will also be in constant touch with the Darjeeling administration over the status of the national highway during the bandh period,” he added.
The strategy of “wait and watch”, however, depends on whether taxi and truck drivers are willing to ply the 114-km NH31A, a major part of which falls under the Kalimpong subdivision of Darjeeling district.
Sikkim is currently enjoying a bumper season with almost all the 600 small and large hotels in Gangtok and tourism packages booked till June 30, said Rasailly.
Figures provided by the tourism department said around 60,500 domestic tourists visited Sikkim in March alone. The footfall for domestic tourists for April should be more than March, the tourism stakeholders said.
A total of 4,909 international tourists visited Sikkim this year from January to March, the department said.
“Sikkim was just picking up especially after last year when there was more bandhs and agitation in neighbouring Darjeeling. But now the big blow,” said a tour operator.
He said the sector had been expecting at least 85,000 tourists in June. “Last year, it was 65,000. So every year, there is almost a 15-20 per cent rise.”
Hundreds of tourists left Gangtok for Siliguri early this morning to avoid today’s bandh called by the Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Banchao Committee and the weekend shutdown of the Morcha.
EDUCATION: School buses seized for flouting rules – so why on the 14th of all days, making a point, even Bengal’s Education parochial ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, May 14: Six school buses, which were not conforming to rules laid down by the motor vehicles department, were seized from in and around Siliguri yesterday.
“The buses that ferry children of English-medium schools in and around Siliguri are in very bad condition. Some of them are over 15 to 18 years old. Some drivers do not have licences, insurance papers and other necessary documents,” said Sandeepan Bhattacharjee, the president of the Guardians’ Forum of North Bengal that had been agitating against the plying of such vehicles since the end of April.
The forum — a body of guardians of children studying in 20 private English-medium schools in and around Siliguri — had submitted a complaint to subdivisional officer Rajat Saini here on April 30 regarding such buses. Another complaint was submitted to the assistant regional transport officer (ARTO), Rajen Sundas, on May 11, demanding an inspection of the school buses.
“The motor vehicles department had seized three buses on May 11 but let them go after detaining them for a few hours. We again met the ARTO the next day, demanding strict action,” Bhattacharjee said.
He said there are 52 seats in the buses but the number of students ferried is always around 70. “Many children have to sit on the engine while others have to stand. The owners charge very high fares but the services are very poor.” School buses here charge anything between Rs 350 and Rs 500 for each student every month. According to Bhattacharjee, all buses are supposed to have first-aid boxes. “But in most vehicles such boxes are used to keep tools instead of first-aid,” he said.
Sundas said the department will carry out the inspection of the buses in phases. “The six buses did not have proper documents, permits and insurance papers so we had seized them. The motor vehicle inspector and the technical officer have been directed to inspect the buses and prepare a report. We will send notices to the owners and they will be penalised according to the Motor Vehicle Act. The fine may go up to Rs 4,000 in case of permit violation,” he said.
Asked about the vehicles seized earlier Sundas said: “They paid the fines and we let them go. ”