The Darjeeling Hills braced themselves for a four-day bandh from Monday, called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) in support of its demand for a separate State comprising the region and certain areas contiguous to it in West Bengal.
The GJM leadership threatened on Sunday that the bandh, which is part of a renewed agitation for statehood, could be extended in the event of the Centre "disregarding" its demand.
The warning was sounded as the "fast-unto-death" programme by batches of GJM activists demanding a separate Gorkhaland entered its third day in the two sub-divisional towns of Kurseong and Kalimpong and at Sukna near Siliguri. Two participants in the programme were admitted to a local health centre in Sukna after they fell ill.
The bandh will be enforced with greater severity than earlier ones, and vehicles belonging to the police or of the civil administration, save those of the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police, will not be allowed to ply, according to GJM central committee member Benoy Tamang.
The bandh is expected to hit tourism in the hills although the sponsors have made special arrangements for tourists wanting to leave the region. Similar arrangements have been made for tourists and others bound for Sikkim, linked to the plains by National Highway 31A that passes through a part of the Darjeeling Hills.
The ongoing agitation comes in the wake of the Centre's decision to initiate the process for the creation of a Telangana State.
The bandh comes ahead of the tripartite talks scheduled for December 21 involving the Centre, the State government and the GJM leadership, to find a way out of the political impasse in the region arising from the Gorkhaland demand.