Darjeeling, Jan 12 (ANI): Normal life in Darjeeling came to a halt on Wednesday as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) began the first phase of shutdown.
Streets in Darjeeling, as well as sub-divisions of Kalimpong and Kerseong wore a deserted look and shops remained shut as GJM activists marched on roads, shouting slogans for the creation of Gorkhaland.
Activists also blocked various parts of the National Highway 55 by burning tyres, and disrupting vehicular traffic completely.
GJM activists said that the demand for a separate state was genuine and older than the demand for Telangana.
"We have declared a shutdown for the fulfilment of our demand. Our demand is older than the demand for Telangana," said Sankar Adhikari, GJM convener.
Roshan Giri, the General Secretary of GJM, had announced on January 6 that a 25-day long shutdown would be enforced in Darjeeling.
According to Giri, the members of the Central Committee of GJMM would also hold a 'fast unto death' strike, slated to begin from February 16.
"The Central Government must clear its stance on the Gorkhaland issue. It has been our demand and is intrinsically linked with the people's aspirations. 99 percent of people in this region want a separate state.
The government must clarify its position on the matter. We do not have any option but to protest through democratic means. This is why, the region would be closed down and following this, our party leaders would fast unto death," said Giri.
A renewed demand for a separate Gorkhaland region, which would include Darjeeling and some contiguous areas of Jalpaiguri District, has created fresh turmoil over the past few months.
The four issues obstructing the interim authority are territorial jurisdiction, its authority to manage the regional tea gardens, the selection of its members and a description of the councils legislative powers.
At the fifth round of tripartite talks in New Delhi, the GJM had agreed to the constitution of an interim council by 2011 prior to the creation of a separate state.
The Gorkha population in West Bengal estimated to be around a million have demanding a separate state. (ANI)