Gangtok, Feb 13 (PTI) The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM)today said the National Highway 31A, which passes throughDarjeeling Hills district, has been exempted for the Sikkimtraffic from the indefinite shutdown in the hills as a convoyof 94 vehicles left Rangpo for Siliguri during the day.
Claiming the GJM had never extended the bandh to thehighway to begin with, GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri toldreporters here that the NH 31A was open for Sikkim traffic andout of the purview of the Darjeeling bandh underway in theneighbouring state.
To reports that vehicles coming in from Darjeelingdistrict to Sikkim on February 8 were pasted with posters thatthe bandh had been extended to Sikkim traffic and GJMpicketers at Rangpo turning back all vehicles except SNT busesand trucks on February 9, Giri claimed its cadre had notindulged in any act of arson on the highway.
He, instead, accused the West Bengal government oftrying to foment tension in the hills.
Supply of essential commodities started drying up inmarkets here with West Bengal police escorted convoys leavingfrom Rangpo to Siliguri only once a day.
Official sources said for the last few days GJMpicketers had only allowed Sikkim National Transport (SNT)vehicles to pass on the highway and private vehicles and taxiswere plying at their own risk.The Sikkim Hotels and Restaurant Association [SHRA]has urged the people of Darjeeling Hills and GJM leaders thereto allow unhindered vehicular movement to Sikkim on NH 31A asit was lifeline of the landlocked state.
The SHRA expressed its gratitude towards the people ofDarjeeling for allowing at least SNT vehicles to ply on thehighway during the bandh and condemned the killing of threeGJM supporters in the police firing at Sikchu on February 8.
SHRA President Bhanu Pratap Rasaily said that tourismwas the only sector in Sikkim in which local people wereengaged in gainful employment. This sector, he said, had beenhit due to the current spate of bandhs and travel uncertainty.
Giri is in Gangtok to attend the first general meetingof the GJM in Sikkim that held today.