Darjeeling, June 12: The advent of the monsoon signalling an end to tourist season in the Darjeeling hills has prompted the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha once again to revive its agitation for Gorkhaland — this time in the nature of a “long strike”.
However, Morcha president Bimal Gurung, who had not called a general strike of more than six days last year, has appealed to the people to be ready and his outfit has already started setting up godowns to stock up foodgrain to tide over the agitation phase.
The date for the commencement of the strike will be announced once the central committee of the party meets in a few days, he said, in an interview to a local cable channel here last evening.
Explaining why his party had refrained from any agitation in the past four months, Gurung said: “There was no agitation because of the board examinations and the tourist season. Had I intensified the movement, drivers, hoteliers and everyone connected to the tourism industry would have been very angry, but that period is over.”
“We have already sent an MP, Jaswant Singh, to Delhi and now need to convey a message to the capital and the rest of Bengal from the grassroots level. There will be hardships but we must not forget our issue of statehood,” Gurung said. Going by his statement, the strike is likely to begin at the end of June that marks an end to the tourist season.
Even then, with the Morcha chief announcing that the party would stock up godowns with food items and urging people to do the same, tour operators are wary of the effects of prolonged strikes. “The tourism sector is a sensitive one and lengthy disruption at any time of the year is bound to have a long-term effect,” one of them said.
As far as tea gardens are concerned, planters are not too worried as the Morcha usually leaves the sector out of its strikes. However, if the party includes gardens, as Gurung said he wanted to make an impact on Delhi and the rest of Bengal, planters fear that they might be affected very badly.
“The first flush was poor as the weather was dry and with heavy rain during the second flush, the soil temperature has come down. We expect the second flush to continue till the third week of July. If there is a strike in the tea industry at that time, gardens will suffer very badly,” a planter said.
Many here feel the agitation should take place in phases. “The monsoon has arrived and immediate relief and restoration need to be carried out to prevent the havoc of the type caused by landslides at the end of last month. Taking this aspect into account, I do not think the Morcha will go for prolonged strikes,” a resident said.
Last year, the most prolonged strike was for six days — from June 17 to 22. But the party had kept government offices closed for almost two months at a stretch only to allow them to open for disbursement of salaries.