Morcha hits roads, threatens trains

The Telegraph

Dec. 27: Gorkhaland supporters choked traffic on three national highways for several hours today and threatened to stall trains from tomorrow as the administration ruled out using force to stop them.

Most trains to the region from other parts of Bengal go through New Jalpaiguri and are unlikely to be hit but the Sealdah-bound Kanchankanya Express, which uses the Sevoke line along the foothills, could get delayed if the protesters stick to their noon-to-4pm threat.

The train is popular among tourists on their way back from the Dooars, a big draw since the unrest in the hills.

At least two Northeast trains — Capital Express, which connects Patna with Guwahati, and the Jhajha-Guwahati Express — could be also hit.

The highway blockade tomorrow will be an hour longer than today’s. It will start at noon and continue till 4pm. “During these hours, we will also obstruct trains that move to and from the Northeast,” said Keshav Raj Pokhrel, general secretary of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s student wing.

This morning, hundreds of supporters of the Vidyarthi Morcha descended on the ro- ads that connect Siliguri with the Darjeeling hills, Sikkim and the Northeast. Vehicles tried to hurry through before noon, but since the roads were blocked at several places — Panchnoi, Sevoke, Teesta Bridge and Rangpo — they got stuck at one point or the other.

Blockades will be put up at more places tomorrow, Pokhrel warned.

At Panchnoi, a kilometre from Darjeeling More in Sili- guri, Matigara block development officer Samarjit Chakrabarty tried in vain to persuade the students to lift the blockade. At the other places, there was no intervention from the administration.

State chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti had yesterday said: “No national highway can be blocked…. It will mean violation of a Supreme Court ruling…. We will have to take steps to enforce the law.”

Today, Darjeeling district magistrate Surendra Gupta said: “We are holding talks with the Morcha leadership. We will not resort to any pressure tactics as that could make the situation worse.”

At Panchnoi, on the Siliguri-Darjeeling road, the line of vehicles stretched to about a kilometre on either side. The number of protesters was higher at Sevoke, the point of entry into Siliguri from the Dooars, Kalimpong and Sikkim. There, vehicles were stuck for up to 3km.

Pokhrel said the blockades were meant to send a message to the Centre and the state.


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