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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