Without terming it either a “bandh” or “strike” the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) further intensifying its on-going agitation for Gorkhaland, announced on Thursday that its protest will ensure a total shutdown in the Darjeeling hills and will continue indefinitely till the release of its arrested leaders and activists.
The call for an indefinite “ghar bahira janata agitation” where people have been urged to hit the streets (but not attend work) — a new form of the agitation — was initially planned for two days beginning Thursday. But in view of the continuing arrests and that of party assistant secretary and one of spokespersons, Benoy Tamang, on Wednesday night, the GJM leadership decided the protest programme will continue.
The change in tack is a response to what the GJM leadership views as a “strategy” of the State government “to crush its statehood agitation by arresting its leaders”. It is also stopping short of describing the programme as a bandh or strike given the Calcutta High Court’s recent observation that they were illegal.
Though the GJM has sought the Governor M.K. Narayanan’s intervention and “take appropriate steps as early as possible” to resolve the stalemate resulting from its renewing the call for Gorkhaland, the arrest of Mr. Tamang has only strengthened its stand not to hold talks with the State government.
“We will not talk to the Bengal government. The Central government must intervene. We will talk to the Governor if he asks us to but not Mamata Banerjee”, said GJM president Bimal Gurung in Darjeeling.
When journalists here sought Mr. Narayanan’s comments he said here that if Mr. Gurung wanted his intervention he should ask for it. “But I have made one thing very clear: the State of Bengal extends from the oceans to the mountains” - a clear implication that here could be no creation of Gorkhaland.
Saying that the entire leadership is prepared “to go to jail” for its cause he described the on-going agitation as “a people’s movement”, adding that the State government is free to convene a meeting of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) but the GJM (that controls the body) would not.
Mr. Gurung also demanded that withdrawal of the cases against the arrested GJM members in connection with “old cases”. “The 721 arrested people who are in judicial custody will also go for an indefinite hunger-strike”, he added.
“By presenting what is a political problem as an administrative is not a solution. No amount of pressure tactics by the State government to break the morale of our leaders and supporters by arresting them will work”, GJM general secretary, Roshan Giri, told The Hindu over telephone.
“That the State government has no interest in acting in accordance with the GTA agreement is being proven each day with more of our leaders being arrested even though the pact says that all old cases against our activists will be dropped,” he added.