Even as the shutdown continued in the Darjeeling hills following the call for an indefinite protest programme by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), its leadership clarified on Friday that the agitation should not be construed as a “bandh” as was being perceived by some.

What is underway is “ghar bahira janata” (a call to the people to hit the streets), a programme to protest the arrests of leader of the GJM as well as Gorkhaland supporters by the police out to crush the movement for Statehood, said GJM president Bimal Gurung.

“The GJM leadership affirms its full respect for the recent observations of the Calcutta High Court on the developments in the Darjeeling hills and asserts that there is no diktat issued for the people,” he posted in a social networking site.

The High Court had observed earlier this month that the “janata curfew” that had been called at that time by the GJM was “a part of an illegal bandh.”

“The [on-going] agitation is only an expression of the free will of the people… The GJM’s supporters will continue to exercise their freedom of expression, speech and their right to assemble peacefully without arms to press for their demand for Gorkhaland with the ‘ghar bahira janata’,” Mr. Gurung said. Reiterating that “the sentiments of the hill people is not a law and order problem but a political problem”, he pointed out that “it is wrong to think that by arresting 721 Morcha leaders people’s aspirations for Gorkhaland will be wiped out.”

Those in judicial custody would go for an indefinite hunger strike, Mr. Gurung added.