Darjeeling, June 24 : Hundreds of people queued up in the Darjeeling Hills area to participate in a Gorkha community recruitment drive.
At least 2,000 men and women are expected to be recruited over the next few days. They will undergo martial arts training, and some of them will be allowed to carry kukris, a traditional knife, a Gorkha leader said.
Hundreds, including girls, have braved the steady drizzle and cold weather to throng a stadium to get their names registered.
"We are here for the registration of GLP (Gorkha Land Personnel). We want Gorkhaland by any means. Until the government decides to give us Gorkhaland, we will continue our protests and fights for it," said Rima Chetri, a volunteer of the GLP force.
The Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJM) had called for an indefinite shutdown on Monday from June 10 onwards to mount pressure for the granting of separate statehood.
According to the GJM leaders, the decision to relax the shutdown followed requests of some union ministers to enable school students to finish their term before summer vacations begin from June 25.
The GJM, comprising about half a dozen parties, has been organizing protests over the past few months in the Darjeeling Hills over a demand for a separate Gorkhaland state.
The West Bengal Government, however, has been resisting the demand.
The strike in the Darjeeling Hills has badly hit the tourism and the tea industry, two mainstays of the local economy. A tea industry official has warned exports of premium Darjeeling tea could fall 20-25 per cent this year.
The Gorkha population in West Bengal is around one million out of 80 million people, although the overwhelming majority is concentrated in Darjeeling.