Darjeeling: As a fallout of the Telangana decision by the Congress, demands for separate statehood are intensifying in other parts of the country as well. Protests in West Bengal continue for a separate state of Gorkhaland in spite of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's call for a 72-hour deadline and warnings of stern action against the agitators.
On Sunday, protesters took to the streets and raised slogans demanding an autonomous region of Gorkhaland. Life in the Darjeeling hills remained paralysed on the ninth day of the indefinite strike on Sunday. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha also ruled out talks with the West Bengal government, saying it would hold deliberations only with the Centre over the statehood demand.
"We will talk only to the Central government regarding our legitimate demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. The West Bengal government has no business in this matter," GJM president Bimal Gurung told reporters here.
Gurung also rubbished allegations that a secret pact had been made between the GJM and the Central government on granting a Union Territory status to the hills. "These are all baseless speculations. We don't want any Union Terriotory status. We want Gorkhaland. Our delegation is already in touch with the Central government regarding the demand," he said.
Gurung announced a one-day relaxation of the shutdown on August 15 on the ocassion of the Independence Day. He took a dig at Mamata Banerjee's 72-hour deadline to call off the strike, saying, "She has given a deadline of 72 hours. But after that period the people of the hills will sit back in their homes as part of a Janata curfew for an indefinite period."
Kalimpong GJM core committee member Shekhar Sharma, who was absconding, was arrested last night in connection with some old cases following a tip-off. In addition to this, four GJM youth leaders were detained and subsequently arrested on Sunday by the the police and CRPF from Kurseong to take the total number of arrests to 172.
The four - Sumit Deep, Suman Lama, Abhishek Gurung, Lawang Gurung - were arrested from Guridhura after they were alleged to have set fire to government property, picketed on highways and threatened people, the police said.
On the ninth day of the strike, many poor people ran out of their stock of provisions and were seen trudging long distances to reach Darjeeling to buy a fresh supply.
(With additional information from PTI)