Bhattacharjee calls for deployment of army, No Gorkhaland

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Kolkata, Jun 12 (UNI) West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today ordered deployment of the army in Siliguri and its adjoining areas in Darjeeling district following escalating violence involving ethnic groups over the demand for a separate state by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).

''The army is being deployed in Siliguri and its adjoining areas. This has been decided after judging all aspects of the situation. We had talks with the army, and they will start patrolling as soon as possible,'' Mr Bhattacharjee told reporters after a high-level meeting at the state secretariat.

The Chief Minister also said the Government had called an all-party meeting at the state secretariat on June 17 to look for a way to end the stalemate over the renewed demand for a Gorkhaland.

Informing that Siliguri and its nearby areas witnessed trouble also today, Mr Bhattacharjee appealed to all political parties and individuals to maintain peace and tranquility. ''It is my appeal to the people and all political parties not to get involved in the trouble. They must maintain peace and the law and order,'' he said.

The Government's decision to deploy army came a day after GJM activists, clashed with the local people , beat up tourists,set afire a vehicle and put up a series of road blocks in the plains.

The GJM, led by Mr Bimal Gurung, has been demanding statehood for the entire Darjeeling district, comprising three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong and the plains of Siliguri and Dooars.

While Nepalis are in sweeping majority in the hills, the plains are largely dominated by the Bengali speaking people.

However, the Chief Minister has categorically turned down the GJM's demand and urged them to sit for negotiations giving up the statehood slogan.

Ethnic tension gripped the foothill areas of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts as eight tourists from Kolkata were attacked and injured by the GJM men prompting the tour operators to urge outsiders to stay away from Darjeeling.

In the Darjeeling plains, clashes broke out between the Bengali majority and the ethnic Nepalis living in the hills.

Similar clashes took place in the business city of Siliguri few days ago, when the local people got into a violent confrontation with the GJM supporters, who blocked the national highway for hours.

As the GJM called an indefinite bandh in the hills on Monday last to press for its statehood demand, thousands of tourists got stranded.

Life came to a standstill as shops, markets and hotels remained closed and all vehicles went off the road leaving the tourists to face a harrowing time.

Thousands of tourists were stranded also in Sikkim as the national highway no 31 A, linking the state with the nearest railhead at Siliguiri, remained cut off because of a blockade put up by Gorkhaland supporters.

However, yesterday evening, the GJM relaxed the strike for 60 hours in the hills but a strike began in the foothills, called by the Jana Jagaran and Jana Chetna Morcha, platforms of the Bengali speaking people.

Meanwhile, Union Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who also rejected the Gorkhaland demand, urged the Chief Minister yesterday to convene an all-party meeting to hammer out a solution to the problem.

UNI KDG PC RL KP1608

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