Home >Politics >Policy >GJM calls off indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling

Kolkata: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) late on Tuesday said the indefinite shutdown in Darjeeliing would be suspended from 6 am on Wednesday, hours after Union home minister Rajnath Singh said the centre would intervene to resolve the crisis and appealed to GJM hardliners to withdraw the strike.

The announcement of the withdrawal of strike was made by GJM vice-president Kalyan Dewan.

Earlier in the day, Singh had said in a statement, “I have asked the home secretary to convene an official-level meeting in the home ministry within a fortnight to discuss all related issues."

Singh had appealed to GJM, which wants a separate state of Gorkhaland, and its leader Bimal Gurung to withdraw the general strike so that normalcy could return to Darjeeling ahead of the festive season. Darjeeling has been facing a shutdown for over 100 days.

Moderate Gorkha leader Anit Thapa, who was recently expelled from GJM, said normalcy had almost been restored in Darjeeling and that the centre had now agreed to intervene to make sure that Gorkhas continued to support the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2019 general election.

“This should not be another attempt to fool us," he said. “Our demand is for Gorkhaland and that’s only thing we wish to discuss."

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has spurned the demand for Gorkhaland, saying that it wasn’t within the state’s jurisdiction to decide on creating a separate state. Instead, she last week tried to revive the defunct Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA), an autonomous body helmed by moderate leaders to end the standoff.

Conflicting claims over normalcy abound. The district administration of Darjeeling claimed 80% of stores in the town’s main markets had opened on Sunday. Joyoshi Dasgupta, the district magistrate, went out urging traders to open their stores. But on Monday, traders were again reluctant to open their stores for fear of retribution from the hardliners.

Hardliners owing allegiance to Gurung claim only a handful of stores had resumed business and that a vast majority of Gorkhas still support the indefinite strike to press for a separate Gorkhaland state.

Thapa said popular support for the strike had dissipated.

“But yes, people are still scared of Gurung," said Thapa. “His reign of terror has run for at least 10 years. What else do you expect?" He has reared a youth wing of GJM, which is violent, and it acts only at his command, he said. People will take some more time to emerge from Gurung’s shadow, according to Thapa.

The state government has started several criminal cases against Gurung, forcing him to flee his home in Darjeeling. The district administration is of the view that he is hiding in neighbouring Sikkim.

The last known meeting of the GJM that Gurung had convened was in Sikkim. An arm of the West Bengal police had reached the spot, but couldn’t nab Gurung. In a skirmish between GJM supporters and the police, one person was shot dead. A police officer has been charged with murder in Sikkim.

“It is almost impossible to restore normalcy without taking Gurung into detention," said a key police officer, who asked not to be identified. Gurung has secured refuge in Sikkim, and it is almost impossible to get to him immediately, he added.

The state is following intelligence inputs that Gurung continues to receive funding from outside the state, and that money is being routed to his followers in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts through a handful of traders, said the police officer.

PTI & Soumonty Kanungo contributed to this story.

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