General strike continues in Darjeeling

Published On: June 25, 2017 07:53 AM NPT By: Bhim Chapagain

ILAM, June 24: Life in Darjeeling has been thrown out of gear after the continuation of prolonged general strike since about more than a week.

All the areas of Darjeeling, including Mirik, Kolenpong, and Durbas, have remained shut due to the ongoing protests demanding a separate 'Gorkhaland State'. The areas have remained tensed since June 15 after Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) decided to enforce general strike following the administration of West Bengal enforcing Bengali as compulsory language in the state.

The strike has halted transportation while the bazaars, hotels, schools, and industries among others have remained shut. In the duration, three protestors have been killed in police firing. GJM estimates over 100 of its cadres have been injured. 

“We have reached on the verged of giving up business due to the continuous strike,” said Lhakpa Bhutiya, a hotel entrepreneur. “All the investment in the newly-opened hotel is at risk in lack of tourists due to the general strike,” he added. 

Thousands of tourists in Darjeeling have been stranded due to the strike. Some of them have been escorted by police. 

Likewise, strike has also affected studies of thousands of students. GJM, however, has given permission to operate school buses outside the banda areas. “School buses can transport students till the border of Gorkhaland,” said the party's co-secretary Binaya Tamang, adding that other protests will continue.

Students from eastern parts of Nepal such as Ilam, Panchthar, Taplejung along with other districts, also go to the neighboring Darjeeling of India for studies. Many Indian buses transport school children from Nepal. After the closure of schools due to strike, students from Nepal have been returning home.

The situation is set to get worse after GJM decided to announce more protest programs in their upcoming meeting on June 29.

On Friday, 43 out of 45 parliamentarians of regional Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) have resigned and pledged to commit to the issues of Gorkhaland. GJM Chief Bimal Gurung, who recently resigned as GTA's chief, declared in an audio message sent to journalists on Friday that “GTA's chapter is now closed”.

Last Thursday, West Bengal government had called for a meeting in Siliguri to resolve the ongoing crisis. However, the offer was turned down by GJM.

The West Bengal government has also cut access to internet in Darjeeling and forcefully shut its local media, claiming that they aided in escalating violence.
Darjeeling was once a state of Nepal and majority of the population there still speaks Nepali as first language. 

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