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GJM lifts blockade as Centre sends central forces

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - 23:25

Siliguri (WB): Barely a few hours after the
Centre on Tuesday rushed central para-military forces to reopen the
arterial national highway 31A connecting Sikkim to the rest of
the country, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, today decided to
allow all vehicles on the highway from tomorrow morning.

GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told PTI that they were
opening the highway `for the time being` from six am, but
insisted the indefinite bandh, they had been observing since
July 13, in the Darjeeling hills would continue.

Four companies (about 400 personnel) of Central Reserve
Police Force, two companies (about 200 personnel) of Sashastra
Seema Bal along with a company of women personnel (comprising
about 100) were sent to clear the highway, a senior Home
Ministry official earlier today said in Delhi.

Bandh supporters allowed vehicles registered in Sikkim to
ply on the highway yesterday and also relaxed the bandh for 10
hours yesterday to carry essential commodities in the hills
and Sikkim.

Government had decided to open the highway linking Sikkim
capital Gangtok with the rest of the country `at any cost`,
chief secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti told newsmen at the
end of a security meeting here.

Chakrabarti said they had requested GJM leaders to
withdraw the bandh in Darjeeling hills before tripartite talks
with GJM, state government and the Centre due on August 11 in
New Delhi.

The state government was in favour of a peaceful solution
to the ongoing stalemate in Darjeeling, Chakrabarti said.

The Supreme Court had also issued a notification to the
GJM asking why it blocked the highway despite the apex court
barring any blockade on NH-31.

A Home Ministry official in Delhi said the government may
send Army personnel, if necessary, to the hills even as the
Centre has advanced the date of a tripartite meeting with it,
West Bengal government and the striking GJM.

Meanwhile, the GJM criticised the Centre`s decision to
send paramilitary forces in Darjeeling hills.

"If there were deployment of paramilitary forces in
hills, the peace in the hills would be breached. The situation
in hills is peaceful," GJM press secretary Benoy Tamang said.

Meanwhile, after a recess of 10 hours, normal life in the
Darjeeling hills was paralysed again today with the resumption
of the indefinite bandh by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

Shops, markets and business establishments downed
shutters and vehicles went off the roads after the brief
recess to enable people to stock up on essential commodities.

All schools above class IV were, however, open, while
the GJM exempted tea and cinchona gardens from the purview of
the shutdown, which had not been granted initially.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - 23:25
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