Darjeeling: Normal life was hit hard in the Darjeeling Hills by a 12-hour bandh observed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha protesting the West Bengal government`s decision to form a Lepcha Development Council and demanding Gorkhaland.
The shutdown was total and peaceful in the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong under the new hill body Gorkhaland Territorial Administration run by the GJM, Additional Superintendent of Police Sangmit Lepcha said.
Shops and commercial establishments were closed and vehicles mostly remained off the roads, though traffic continued on National Highway 31A connecting Siliguri in the Darjeeling district with Sikkim`s capital, Gangtok.
GJM supporters picketed in important areas of Darjeeling and Kalimpong to drum up support for the bandh.
There were reports of GJM supporters allowing vehicles only with Sikkim number plates to pass, while stopping those with West Bengal number plates in the border town of Rangpo under the jurisdiction of Kalimpong sub-division.
Lepcha, however, said "National Highway 31A is open. There is intense police patrolling. No untoward incident has been reported."
Meanwhile, hundreds of Lepchas have joined a fast-unto-death protesting `unwanted politics` over their ethnic identity under the banner of the `Lepcha Rights Movement` since Thursday, demanding creation of the Lepcha Council and protesting against the GJM-sponsored shutdown.
President of the Lepcha Rights Movement T N Lepcha said, 600 Lepchas joined the fast this morning.
"We will not quit. Our hunger strike will continue," he said.
GJM leader Bimal Gurung appealed to the Lepchas to call off their fast.
North Bengal Development minister Gautam Deb arrived here on Friday night on "a mission of peace, development and dialogue".