Darjeeling (WB), Jul 29 : Over ten GJM supporters were arrested when they burnt a motorcycle and a car at Rambi on the National Highway as a three-day bandh demanding Gorkhaland began in the hills today.
The motorcycle and the car were burnt by Gorkha Janmukti supporters at Rambi on the National Highway 31 where they were picketing since 6 AM when the shutdown began, police said. The police intervened and arrested 12 GJM supporters, while the remaining fled from the picketing spot on the arterial highway which connects West Bengal with Sikkim. Darjeeling town wore a deserted look with traffic off the roads and markets and offices closed.
There is a Supreme Court directive that the highway has to be kept free during bandhs and blockades in the hills. Superintendent of Police Kunal Agarwal said that stringent action would be taken for destruction of government property and that the police would ensure that the NH 31, Sikkim's lifeline, remain opened.
District Magistrate Soumitra Mohan also said that strong steps would be taken in case of breakdown of law and order. The bandh is to demand Gorkhaland, which is a 107-year-old demand, the GJM said.
A thousand GJM supporters were picketing at Chowkbazar with party flags, while large gatherings of party supporters were also reported from Jorbungalow, Mirik, Sukhiapokhri, 9th Mile and 26th mile.
Roads were also barricaded by the GJM supporters in the Kalimpong and Kurseong subdivisions. Some foreign tourists still remained in the hills, while around 2000 domestic ones left yesterday, police said. A few shops opened in the early morning, but closed by 7:30 AMas there was no customer.
The only traffic on the roads were ambulances and vehicles carrying people to weddings or sradh ceremonies. There was no work in the tea gardens in the hills.
If Telangana was conceded by the Centre, Darjeeling should also be given statehood, the GJM had demanded. Recently, a six member GJM team, headed by GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri had gone to Delhi, with the demand. GJM president, Bimal Gurung has threatened to quit his post as the Chief Executive Officer of the Gorkha
Territorial Administration, the hill council that has replaced the earlier Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.
GJM sources said that the demand for Gorkhaland had been revived since 1986 under Subhas Ghising, chief of the Gorkha National Liberation Front.
Ghising had later settled for implementation of the 6th Schedule or tribal status for the hills.
Ghising was ousted from the hills with the GJM becoming the new force in the hills under Bimal Gurung since October, 2007.
Among other demands of the GJM were that not all departments were transferred to the GTA as per the tripartite agreement.