11 GJM members sit on a dharna near Ghisingh's guesthouse

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Siliguri, Feb 21 (UNI) At least eleven Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) activists, including its Sukna president Bishal Chetri, today sat on a hunger strike near GNLF supremo Subash Ghisingh's guesthouse, while another 47 arrested members were later released on bail.

North Bengal DIG D T Lepcha said, ''GJM Central Committee member Bimal Dorjee yesterday threatened to sit on a hunger strike near Mr Ghisingh's guesthouse and that is exactly what they did today.'' Due to security reasons, the police have ensured that the agitators do not get any closer than 500 metres from the guesthouse.

The GJM members, who were given bail this evening, were arrested when they descended on the plains here to continue with their indefinite hunger strike.

They were bailed on personal release bond.

Those arrested and bailed included GJM Central Committee member Bimal Dorjee, the North Bengal DIG said.

The indefinite general strike by the GJM members in Kalimpong, Kurseong and Darjeeling entered the second day today.

Mr Lepcha said the activists continued to protest, defying the imposition of Section 144 CrPC. They were later arrested apprehending any untoward incident here and in Pintail village where Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) chief Subash Ghising had been kept.

However, the GJM supporters protested the arrests stating that it was illegal as they had the right to go on a hunger strike.

About 500 former Army men from all over the Darjeeling hill district began a protest against the Sixth Schedule and offered their support to the GJM activists.

The GNLF supremo, who led the hills for the last two decades, had been denied entry into Darjeeling by the GJM members.

The demonstrators have claimed that the general strike was total and peaceful with all government offices closed following the bandh.

All financial and commercial establishments remained closed.

However, educational institutions remained open as it had not been kept within the purview of the bandh.

Vehicular services on all important highways were disrupted with only Sikkim-bound vehicles allowed to ply, police said.

Telephone services were affected.

The Hills district was in a turmoil after Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) chief Subash Ghisingh struck a deal with the Centre giving the hills a Sixth Schedule status instead of statehood.

UNI XC LL KD DB2158

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