In a significant development, the State government stepped up its pressure on the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) with the district authorities clamping down on two cable operators in Darjeeling resulting in a majority of subscribers being denied access to television channels even as the indefinite strike called by the GJM entered its seventh day on Friday.
The Sub-divisional Officer of Darjeeling, Sadar, late on Thursday evening raided the office of the two cable service providers that provide services to about 70 per cent of Darjeeling town and asked them to shut down as they failed to show valid documents for conducting business.
GJM president Bimal Gurung, who described the move as an “undemocratic and Taliban-like attempt to suppress the ongoing movement for the creation of the separate State of Gorkhaland,” vowed to put pressure on mobile operators to remove their towers set up in various part of the hills as they were allegedly posing an environmental hazard.
Binoy Tamang, GJM assistant general secretary, alleged that the move was “designed by the State government to ensure that people remain in the dark about the Statehood agitation and the public support it was evoking.”
“The television channels, both regional and national aired by these cable operators, were raising the Gorkhaland issue and highlighting the protests by the people here,” he told The Hindu over phone from Darjeeling.
“The question is why did they come and ask documents at 9 p.m. They should have come during office hours with prior notice. What is the real motive?” Mr. Gurung asked in a post on a social networking site.
The owners of the two cable service providers — Darjeeling Combined Cable Network (DCCN) and Milky Way Cable Vision — told this correspondent that it was a “political” move on the part of the administration. They were handed a hand-written notice on a piece of paper without any government seal.
“We went to the office of the District Magistrate during the day with all the relevant documents but were told to come after the holidays on Monday,” Anupam Subba, the owner of DCCN said, pointing out that uncertainty over the “blackout” of 70 per cent homes continues. The remaining 30 per cent connections in the Darjeeling subdivision are through direct to home (DTH) services.
“The cable service providers have been asked to produce certain documents and once they do so the services will be resumed,” Soumitra Mohan, the outgoing District Magistrate said.