The Darjeeling hills were limping back to normalcy as several shops, markets, government offices and government-aided schools reopened today, while GJM chief Bimal Gurung asked his partymen to intensify the bandh that started 92 days ago. The shops and markets opened, defying the indefinite bandh, sponsored by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) for a separate Gorkhaland. The state-run North Bengal State Transport Corporation plied a few buses, which were escorted by the security forces.
The buses plied from Siliguri to Darjeeling and back via Kurseong, besides between Siliguri and Mirik in Darjeeling district, official sources said. Several government and government-aided schools have started functioning and teachers have been asked to join immediately. The sources said the situation in the hills remained tense but incident-free despite threats and intimidation by the GJM. For the sixth day in a row, the police, along with the administration, appealed to the locals via public address systems to open shops and restore normalcy in the hills. Expelled GJM leader Binay Tamang said that normalcy was returning in the hills. Tamang is one of the key GJM leaders who had represented the party in the two rounds of dialogues with the state government to discuss the Darjeeling issue. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had appealed to the hill parties to withdraw the bandh and restore peace and normalcy. Gurung, who is in hiding, had rejected Banerjee's appeal and said that the bandh will continue till the Centre holds a tripartite meeting on the Gorkhaland issue. He threatened that if the tripartite meeting is not called soon the situation will worsen in the days to come. In an audio statement released from a secret location, Gurung said if something untoward happens in future, the state government would be responsible for it. He also asked the GJM cadre to intensify the bandh in the hills and ensure that no one made an attempt to break it. Peace rallies were taken out by residents in Kurseong, Darjeeling and Mirik. The GJM supporters took out rallies in some parts of Darjeeling, Sonada and Kalimpong supporting creation of Gorkhaland and the ongoing shutdown, the sources said. Internet services remain suspended in the hills since June 18. Meanwhile, unidentified miscreants raided 'Roy Villa', a heritage house in Darjeeling last night where Sister Nivedita, social worker and disciple of Swami Vivekananda, had died. The miscreants damaged it and took away some cash, police said, adding that investigation is on.
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