Darjeeling, July 8: These are desperate times for the people of Darjeeling as an indefinite bandh has paralysed life in the hills. On Saturday, the indefinite bandh--called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morch (GJM) and other pro-Gorkhaland parties, who are demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland--in Darjeeling and adjoining areas entered the 24th day.
The worst impact of the ongoing bandh is the food crisis that has hit the hills hard. With shops selling essential items observing the bandh in toto, the people of Darjeeling are running short of food materials like rice, oil, lentils, biscuits and noodles, to name a few items.
Reports of people "looting" shops for food materials have emerged in the last few days. According to The Times of India, the locals during the night hours come out on the streets in search of food.
Many of them indulge in looting of shops as several shopkeepers have kept a stock of food items but are not selling them due to the strike. Many shopkeepers maintain that they too are running short of supply of groceries as trucks carrying essential items from the plains are not being allowed to enter Darjeeling.
The locals say that they support Gorkhaland movement, but the bandh needs to end soon. "Otherwise people will lose their patience. They might resort to violence and start anti-Gorkhaland protest, which would prove counterproductive," said a resident on condition of anonymity.
The policemen patrolling the roads of Darjeeling admitted that in the last few days they too have encountered men and women with covered faces knocking on the doors of shops in search of food late in the night.
The cops maintain that nobody has been arrested for loot till now, but shopkeepers are definitely being bullied to part away with their stocked materials.
"Yes, people don't have enough supply of food and vegetables. It has become difficult to keep kitchen running in most of the houses. In such circumstances people are forcefully taking away whatever little the shopkeepers have with them. However, most of the people are paying money to the shopkeepers. But many shopkeepers have refused to take money as they too are left with no supply of food and vegetable items," said a police official.
The latest crisis in the hills began after the Mamata Banerjee government announced the decision to make Bengali language compulsory in all schools. The anti-Bengali protest soon metamorphosed into pro-Gorkhaland agitation. Last month, three supporters of the GJM were allegedly killed in a police firing during a protest rally.