Para-military forces deployed to ensure safe passage of tourists stranded in Siliguri

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Siliguri (West Bengal), May 17 (ANI): The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel have been deployed here to ensure a safe passage for tourists heading to Sikkim, as the highway leading to the state is blocked due to the shutdown called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in support of their demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

The state government has arranged eleven buses for the movement of tourists. The CRPF personnel will monitor these buses.

Tourists claimed that tour operators were taking advantage of the situation by charging them high prices, which most of them could not afford to pay.

"They wanted a lot of money. They were charging Rs 6,000 rupees to take us up the hill. They are charging us Rs 800 to 900 rupees per person, whereas the normal rates are Rs 130 per person," said Mark, a tourist from Kolkata.

"We were not able to spend that amount of money and go, we spent money when we booked hotels over there, plus we had to stay back and spend our money in the hotels out there," he added.

Meanwhile, the drivers said that they were charging a bit higher, as they were taking cars on the highway at their own risk, and would have to bear any losses incurred, adding that a couple of vehicles plying on the highway were attacked by the GJM supporters on Sunday.

Minister of State of Urban Development Ashok Bhattacharya on Sunday said the acts performed are not good for humanity.

"The GJM called a two-day strike in the hills. The Adibhashi Bikash Parisad, on the other hand, called Doars strike for three days. The other organizations are also calling strikes every now and then. All such things are not good for humanity," said Ashok Bhattacharya.

"This is not only creating problems for the region, but as a whole, the north Bengal is getting affected by this. No matter whatever the problem is, it can be solved through discussions and talks peacefully. They should not take the path of revolution at any cost, " he added.

Bhattacharya claimed the state administration is ready to talk but such steps would not be tolerated.

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 may step up the come up movement.

The gorkha activists kick started a relay hunger strike here on Monday in support of their movement over the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

The hunger strike was started to put pressure on the Centre 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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