Kolkata: Darjeeling was plunged into a fresh crisis with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) calling for an indefinite strike from Monday. Capping hours of deliberation on Saturday, the GJM announced that all government offices and banks will be shut from Monday.
Schools, colleges, transport services, shops and hotels have been exempted from the strike. Bank branches will be allowed to offer services on Mondays and Thursdays, said GJM spokesperson Roshan Giri. The GJM also announced that it will not allow any outdoor signage to be written in Bengali in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts—only Nepali and English will be allowed.
Leaders said GJM was now launching a decisive movement for creating a separate state for the Nepali-speaking Gorkhas, but at the same time it is mindful of not disrupting the lives of common people. The target, they said, is to paralyze the functioning of the state machinery. Even the offices of the Gorkha territorial administration (GTA) will remain closed, Giri said.
The GJM has written to the centre and has called an all-party meeting on 13 June to explain why the party is now seeking the separation of Gorkhaland from West Bengal. Party leaders will seek an audience with the prime minister soon to press for its demands. The GJM will run a signature campaign to establish popular support for its demand for a separate state.
Meanwhile, intensifying its pressure on the GJM, the state on Saturday sent six more officials to conduct an audit of the GTA, the semi-autonomous administrative body for the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts. The review of its accounts from 2012, the year it was founded, was started with six officials on Friday, amid allegations of rampant corruption.
Also, the state administration on Saturday removed Amit Javalgi as the superintendent of police of the Darjeeling district, replacing him with an officer from the Kolkata police, Akhilesh Chaturvedi.
Even amid disruption, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday said that the election process to the GTA will be concluded by 2 August. On Friday, she had said the state had exercised restraint but “there is a limit to everything", referring to clashes between GJM supporters and the police on Thursday.