WB: Bandh call by Dooars and Terai

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Siliguri, Oct 16: Movement of vehicular traffic to Assam, Sikkim, Darjeeling and Bhutan was affected today following a 24-hour bandh called by the ethnic people of Dooars and Terai in protest against the demand of carving a separate Gorkha state from West Bengal.

Akhil Bharatiya Adibasi Vikash Parishad, spearheading an anti-Gorkhaland movement, has demanded the sixth schedule status for Dooars and Terai in the region.

While Dooars falls under Jalpaiguri district, Terai comes under Darjeeling district dominated by the ethnic Santhals, Mahtos, Bhils, Mundas, Oraons and Nepalese.

ABAVP president John Barla, condemning Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's latest decrees on dress code, change of vehicles' number plates and sign boards, said the ethnic people of Dooars and Terai would not tolerate any move to divide West Bengal.

Besides 24-hour bandh, the ABAVP activists put up road blockades at many junctions in Siliguri to prevent movement of long distance vehicles to Sikkim, Darjeeling hills, Assam and neighbouring Bhutan.

The blockades, which hampered traffic on NH-31A, NH 30 and and NH-55, would be lifted at 1700 hours, Mr Barla added.

However, there was no report of any untoward incident so far as police beefed up patrolling along the highways.

The bandh affected work in the tea gardens as Terai and Dooars are famous for cultivation of liquoring teas.

Educational institutions and government offices in the region were also closed.

Meanwhile, rivalry between hill people over dress codes was heating up as some ethnic people have already defied the latest "fatwa" of GJM president Bimal Gurung.

Police said some miscreants yesterday attacked houses of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League Kalimpong unit's president Pratap Khati and ex-GJM leader Basant Singh, who was expelled from the party three months back.

Tension was brewing up in the hills with the diktat for putting up signboards in the hills bearing the name of Gorkhaland instead of West Bengal.

Mr Gurung said all the government offices should also change their signboards by the dusk of October 17.

West Bengal Home Secretary Ashoke Mohan Chakraborty said the GJM's latest demand was illegal, adding that the issue would be taken up at a higher level.


UNI

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