The northern West Bengal hills continued to simmer on Saturday as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) sponsored indefinite shutdown continued.
The ‘Queen of the Hills’ virtually turned into a battlefield as moves and counter moves were brought on by supporters of Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress and dominant hill party, the GJM.
At around 3 am, on Saturday, GJM assistant general secretary Binay Tamang claimed his house was “raided and vandalised by the police and the Trinamool Congress cadres” in the same manner as they had raided party chief Bimal Gurung’s house in Darjeeling district two days ago.
Tamang also claimed police arrested Vikram Rai, son of GJM MLA Amar Rai.
Amar Rai said his son has no political affiliations. “We are shocked and stunned to inform you all that Vikram Rai – a local journalist, was arrested last night. Rai was associated with various media houses based in Kolkata and was also a stringer for a television channel. If local journalists are not safe in Darjeeling, who is,” Tamang said in statement.
“There is a virtual emergency imposed in Darjeeling region,” he added.
GJM supporters pelted stones and lobbed petrol bombs at the residence of Trinamool Congress activist Deoraj Gurung in Lebong Cart Road and attempted to set the house on fire, claimed Deoraj.
At Pankhabari, GJM supporters allegedly attacked a local Trinamool activist’s residence. A public works department office at Bijonbari, was reportedly set on fire by GJM supporters.
The ongoing agitation has crippled tourism. According to a railway official, the toy-train service of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was suspended in view of the strike for the safety of passengers and staffs.
Business owners in Siliguri also said that economic activities are affected due to the strike in the hills. “Our main customer base is from the hills and the tourists visiting the hills. The business is affected due to the strike,” a manager at a top brand store in Siliguri told The News Mill.
The GJM announced an indefinite general strike from Monday in the hills encompassing Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and the Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas covering stretches of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar district) protesting against chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to make Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools.
The strike was called even as the chief minister assured that the new rule would not be imposed in the hill districts.