The showdown between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) over a separate Gorkhaland state is intensifying with every passing day as both parties up the ante.
Even as life in North Bengal's Darjeeling Hills remains crippled following GJM's indefinite shutdown, a defiant Mamata Banerjee regime continued its crackdown on the movement, this time by blocking the services of major cable operators in Darjeeling town, resulting in disruption of services in most homes.
While the government has cited absence of valid documents behind the move, the GJM termed it an undemocratic action aimed at suppressing its movement.
"The government has clamped down on the operators because they aired channels which highlighted the people's protests. By this move, it wants to keep the people in the dark and suppress the movement," said GJM assistant general secretary Benoy Tamang.
The Gorkha outfit has not only threatened to take legal recourse against the prohibition, but in a retaliatory move asked cellular operators to remove their towers as they caused pollution and endangered life.
"We have asked the mobile operators to remove their network towers as they cause pollution, endangering precious human life," said GJM chief Bimal Gurung, adding that the party will move court against the government's order to block cable services.
The state government, on the other hand, has termed Gurung's threat as "politically motivated".
"The mobile towers are there for years now. Why didn't he raise the issue earlier? Is it a new ploy to create pressure on the people, who are already suffering because of this shutdown," wondered North Bengal Development Minister Gautam Deb, who also defended the blocking of the cable services, saying it was "routine".
The Banerjee regime, which has been cracking down on the GJM movement, received a shot in the arm when the Calcutta High Court directed it to ensure there was no "forcible shutdown" and sought a compliance report within a week.
While GJM representatives are camping in Delhi to press for their demands before the central leadership, the Hills continue to be on the boil as another Gorkhaland supporter attempted self-immolation.
A 32-year-old physically challenged man, while participating in a procession, set himself on fire. He is undergoing treatment with nearly 40 percent burns.
Earlier a GJM activist succumbed to his injuries after setting himself afire in Kalimpong town
Meanwhile, the number of GJM supporters getting arrested continues to rise. The police and central para-military forces are keeping a strict vigil to maintain law and order. Nearly 200 people have been arrested since the GJM intensified its separatist movement following the decision to create a separate Telangana.
The Banerjee regime has been blaming the Congress and UPA's decision on Telangana for the unrest in the Hills. It got support from Governor M.K. Narayanan, who said: "We had a good thing on, but the Telangana came and I think that has made it a big issue."
As the stir continues, the region's economy, based on tea, timber and tourism has been suffering badly.
(Anurag Dey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)