Darjeeling tense after arson attacks by GJM protesters
The northern West Bengal hills remained tense on Friday after Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters indulged in widespread arson late on Thursday night to protest a police raid on party chief Bimal Gurung's house.
GJM supporters in the early morning hours on Friday torched a panchayat office at Mirik, a hydro electric supply office at Lodhama in Darjeeling and a health centre in Rimbik-Lodhama.
Late on Thursday night, protesters had set the Gayabari station, declared as a heritage site by the UNSECO, on fire.
On Thursday, they had set ablaze a railway station, a police outpost, a state transport bus and several vehicles, including one belonging to a media house.
On Friday, all the hotels remained shut, said tourists.
A long queue could be seen at the bus station as tourists and hotel workers prepared to leave the hills. Local administration arranged bus services so that stranded tourists could get to Siliguri.
According to a railway official, the toy-train services of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) has been suspended in view of the strike for the safety of passengers, staffs and the property of the DHR.
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 the 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.
In Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blamed intelligence failure for the fresh unrest in the hills, where the GJM sponsored shutdown entered the fifth day.