GJM begins block-level strike; NH-31A to Sikkim blocked

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Darjeeling, Feb 25 (UNI) Gorkha Janamukti Morcha(GJM) today began a block-level agitation throughout the hill area, even as NH 31A, the lifeline of Sikkim, was brought under the ambit of the general strike in the district.

GJM president Bimal Gurung said, ''We want the Sikkim government to exert pressure on the Central and West Bengal Governments. We have obstructed vehicular traffic on NH 31A, the lifeline of Sikkim that will result in scarcity in the supply of food grains and other necessary commodities.'' The highway links Sikkim with Siliguri and eventually with the rest of the country.

The fresh agitation has now been started by over 400 agitators from all over the hill areas of the district.

Darjeeling SP Rahul Srivastav said about 21 agitators have already fallen ill and are in a very serious condition.

Mr Gurung said that any number of requests by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattachrya to withdraw the strike, with concern for those falling ill, will have no effect on their agitation.

''We want a formal request from the Chief Minister and a call for holding formal discussions on the issue. Until and unless, such discussions have positive outcome for our people, we will not give up our movement,'' Mr Gurung stated.

Criticising yesterday's comments by State Urban Development Minister Ashok Bhattacharya, Mr Gurung also said, ''Such comments can disrupt peace and cause spread of communal violence in the land.'' Mr Srivastav said, ''The agitators have taken the situation to an extreme level. We have deployed additional force to take care of the situation. However, we are concerned that the situation may worsen if action is not taken immediately.'' The SUCI and CPI(ML), CPI(ML-Liberation) and CP Regulationary Marxist have formed an alliance to offer their support to the GJM movement.

''We have not joined the GJM movement, but we definitely support them in their demand for removal of Gorkha National Liberation Front(GNLF) and the cancellation of the proposed Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling,'' party sources said today.

SUCI Darjeeling District Committee Secretary Gautam Bhattacharjee, CPI(ML-Liberation) Darjeeling District Committee Secretary and State Committee member Abhijit Majumdar, CPRM Central Committee member Tara Rai spoke on the matter today at a joint press address, while adding that they would take out a rally tomorrow to urge the state government for return of peace in the hills.

They would also submit a memorandum before the ADM in this regard, sources said. Meanwhile, a delegation team, comprising members of at least five parties, who lent their support to the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha(GJM) movement, today left for New Delhi.

They will join others, who arrived there yesterday. An all party meeting will be held between the parties of Darjeeling and the Central ministers over the issue of the proposed Sixth Schedule and demand for Gorkhaland.

Additional Director General(Intellegence Branch) N Mukherjee, who came to Siliguri from Kolkata yesterday, met the departmental heads here today and later went to Darjeeling to speak to the SP, DIG and other officials there to asses the exact situation to give detailed report to the state and Central governments.

Meanwhile, official sources said he has also expressed concern over the present situation in Darjeeling.

UNI XC LL RN BDP RK2008

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