Rallies in demand of separate Gorkhaland state and sporadic incidents of violence marked the 17th day of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) sponsored indefinite shutdown in West Bengal hills on Saturday.
The normal life at the picturesque hill stations continues to be paralysed.
A group of pro-Gorkhaland activists allegedly set ablaze a panchayat office in Darjeeling in the early hours of Saturday. Several important documents were destroyed as a large part of the building was gutted in fire.
Meanwhile, the GJM activists took out rallies in various places in the hills, in demand of separate Gorkhaland state, including the Chawkbazar in Darjeeling town.
Amid the tight security arrangements by the police and security forces in Darjeeling, the rallyists walked with pro-Gorkhaland banners and posters and shouted slogans in support of their statehood demand.
The streets of Darjeeling and other popular hill destinations that are otherwise bustling with tourist activities, looked deserted as most of the shops and hotels stayed closed throughout the day.
Referring to the attack on Mirik Municipality Vice Chairman MK Zimba’s house, the ruling Trinamool Congress leaders from the adjoining Dooars region condemned GJM’s activities and accused them of spreading violence in the hills in the name of people’s movement.
“They are trying to make the hills opposition free by spreading violence in the name of the common people’s movement. There has been planned attack on the state ruling party leaders and activists from the region in the last few days,” Sourav Chakraborty, the Chairman of Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority alleged on Saturday.
The picturesque Darjeeling district in northern West Bengal is on the boil for more than two weeks now over the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state.
The GJM, which is spearheading the movement for Gorkhaland, has repeatedly rejected any possibility of talks with the Mamata Banerjee government, accusing it of “oppression and high-handedness”.
The Trinamool Congress government in the state maintains that it is ready for a discussion after the situation in the region becomes normal.