People remained indoors and Darjeeling hills wore a deserted look as a fresh phase of the pro-Gorkhaland agitation began on Monday after a four-day interlude.
The call for “ghar bitrai janta (people inside homes)” given by the Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee ( GJAC), comprising the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), regional parties and local leaders of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party led to total shutdown in the region.
“None, but those needing medical attention, came out of their homes. It was peaceful and the protests were non-violent. There was no picketing on the roads and the response of the people was spontaneous,” said GJAC convenor and GJM leader Raju Pradhan. “On Tuesday people will raise their voice in support of Gorkhaland, so that those in Kolkata and New Delhi can hear,” he said, referring to the four-day call given by the leadership to hit the streets.
Commenting on the heavy deployment of Central paramilitary forces in the hills, Mr. Pradhan said that it was an attempt to intimidate the people but the support they had given showed up the government’s failure.
He said the GJAC had decided to convene a meeting on August 30 to decide the next course of action.
Meanwhile the clampdown on the GJM leaders continued with the arrest of Prabha Chettri, a GTA Sabha member late on Sunday night. Condemning the action, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said that more than 300 supporters and leaders of the party had been arrested since the agitation began in the last week of July.
“It was clearly stated in the memorandum of understating for the GTA Act that all cases against our supporters, except murder cases, would be withdrawn. Not only has the State government gone back on its promise but it is also using police cases to crush our movement,” he said.
On the issue of its decision to boycott the meetings of the GJAC, the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) leadership reiterated that there cannot be any rapprochement until the GJM members resigned from the GTA.
“The GJM is not honest in its support to the cause of Gorkhaland. This is the reason its leadership does not want to resign from the GTA and is waiting for the opportune moment to mend ties with the State government,” ABGL general secretary Pratap Khati said.