Hill threat to highway traffic – Roads to Darjeeling, Sikkim & Northeast to be blocked every day

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Dec. 26: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s student wing today threatened to paralyse traffic bound not only for Darjeeling but also Sikkim and the Northeast.

All the three national highways in the region will be blo-ckaded from noon to 3pm on Sunday, the outfit announced, adding that it was an “indefi- nite” agitation, meaning the traffic trauma could be an everyday affair.

“The students have now decided to hit the streets to press for Gorkhaland…. The blockade will go on indefinitely and if there is no positive response from the Centre on the statehood demand, we will not hesitate to organise indefinite hunger strikes along the national highway,” said Keshav Raj Pokhrel, the general secretary of the Vidyarthi Morcha.

He did not say whether the blockades would be for three hours every day. “Tomorrow, we will block the roads from noon to 3pm. The timings for the other days will be announced later,” Pokhrel said.

Three national highways pass through Darjeeling district — 55, which connects Darjeeling town with Siliguri; 31A, which connects Sikkim with the rest of the country; and 31, the lifeline for the Northeast.

Fed up with frequent Morcha bandhs and blockades, the Sikkim government had ear-lier threatened to move court and seek damages. The land-locked hill state depends entirely on the highway for its essentials.

Following a plea from a Sikkim resident, the apex court had in July issued notices to the Morcha and the Bengal government.

In Calcutta, state chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti said: “No national highway can be blocked like this. It will mean violation of a Supreme Court ruling that calls for maintenance of normal services on a highway. We will have to take steps to enforce the law.”

The Morcha students did not disclose the places where they would put up the blockades. They claimed to have written to the President, Prime Minister and the home minister, informing them about their agitation.

After a brief lull for Christmas, the hill outfit today resumed a piped-down version of its earlier fast unto death.

Eleven members of the All Gorkha Minority Front and the Janmukti Hotel Owners’ Association began the “relay hunger strike” outside the district magistrate’s office in Darjeeling. Similar protests are being held in Kalimpong, Kurseong and Pintail, on the outskirts of Siliguri.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: “This hunger strike is to tell the Centre we want Gorkhaland. There is talk of a states reorganisation commission being formed but our protests will continue.”

Observers said the Centre’s go-slow on statehood to Telangana had prompted the Morcha not to revert to the “indefinite hunger strike” which it had put on hold two days before the December 21 tripartite talks in Darjeeling.

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www.kalimpong.info

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