Tourists cancel bookings in Darjeeling following Gorkha shutdown

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Siliguri (West Bengal), May 13 (ANI): Tourists heading to Darjeeling for holidays are cancelling their plans following a shutdown call given by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) to demand a separate state of Gorkhaland.

The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha that has called for a shutdown on Saturday and Sunday are expected to come up with a more intensive movement, if their demands are not met.

Following the shutdown call, tourists are reluctant to stay in Darjeeling, fearing violence.

"I went to Darjeeling and had plans to stay there for around ten days. But I heard that Darjeeling hills would come under strike for a period of two days. Hearing the news, I decided to return. Like me, there are many other tourists who are going back," said Safikul Islam, a tourist from Bangladesh.

Tour operators said the shutdown call would be a big loss for tourism in the area.

"It (shutdown) brings a very bad brand name to the region actually, and with the strikes that are due on 14th, 15th and 16th of May in the plains and in the hills. There have been several cancellations, which is very unfortunate because this is the most peak time for the tourism this summer," said Raj Basu, tour operator.

"All the tourism infrastructure in the region was jam-packed. There were extra flights been given, there are extra trains, extra buses, which are running from the different places to Siliguri. This sudden shutdown has actually brought in a lot of cancellation and a big loss to the tourism industry," he added.

GJM chief Bimal Gurung had earlier declared in a rally that if things did not go their way during forthcoming meetings over the creation of the separate state, they might come up with a more voluble movement.

The GJM activists kick started a relay hunger strike here on Monday to give a fillip to their movement over the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

The hunger strike was kicked off eyeing upon putting the Centre on the back foot ahead of the sixth round of tripartite talks, involving the Central Government and the representatives of the GJM to be held in New Delhi on May 14.

Earlier on April 9, Bimal Gurung met Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in New Delhi, who assured him that he would talk to the Government of West Bengal and Trinamool Congress about their demands.

The GJM had agreed during the fifth round of tripartite talks in New Delhi to the constitution of Interim Council by next year prior to the creation of a separate state.

Gorkhas, who are ethnic Nepalese, have been demanding a separate state in Darjeeling hills, to help them protect their culture and heritage. (ANI)

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