Even as life remained paralysed in the Darjeeling hills on the ninth day of the indefinite strike on Sunday, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha ruled out talks with the West Bengal government, saying it would hold deliberations only with the Centre over the statehood demand.
“We will talk only to the Central government regarding our legitimate demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. The West Bengal government has no bussiness in this matter,” the GJM president Bimal Gurung told reporters.
Mr. Gurung also rubbished allegations that a secret pact had been made between the GJM and the Central government on granting a Union Territory status to the hills.
“These are all baseless speculations. We don’t want any Union Terriotory status. We want Gorkhaland. Our delegation is already in touch with the Central government regarding the demand,” he said.
Mr. Gurung announced a one-day relaxation of the shutdown on August 15 on the ocassion of the Independence Day.
He took a dig at Mamata Banerjee’s 72-hour deadline to call off the strike, saying, “She has given a deadline of 72 hours. But after that period the people of the hills will sit back in their homes as part of a Janata curfew for an indefinite period.”
Kalimpong GJM core committee member Shekhar Sharma, who was absconding, was arrested last night in connection with some old cases following a tip-off.
In addition to this, four GJM youth leaders were detained and subsequently arrested today by the the police and CRPF from Kurseong to take the total number of arrests to 172.
The four -- Sumit Deep, Suman Lama, Abhishek Gurung, Lawang Gurung -- were arrested from Guridhura after they were alleged to have set fire to government property, picketed on highways and threatened people, the police said.
On the ninth day of the strike, many poor people ran out of their stock of provisions and were seen trudging long distances to reach Darjeeling to buy a fresh supply.
The GJM activists put up small tents in Darjeeling from where it was distributing small rations to BPL people as shops and other commercial establishments were closed since August 3 when the indefinite shutdown kicked in.
Vehicular traffic on NH-31A, the lifeline of Sikkim, was also nil, the sources said.
The GJM leaders and supporters gathered at the main areas in Darjeeling town and shouted slogans in support of Gorkhaland and against the government’s deadline.
Meanwhile, cable TV operators have resumed services after being ordered to stop yesterday.