KOLKATA, August 10;West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday served a 72-hour ultimatum to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership for lifting the bandh in the Darjeeling hills, which entered its eighth day on Saturday. She also asked the Centre not to pursue a divide and rule policy or to interfere in the state’s business.
Addressing a press meet at the State Secretariat, she strongly condemned the bandh as well the separatist movement, which was revived by the GJM leaders following the Centre’s decision to form Telegana out of Andhr Pradesh.
Sending out a strong message she said: “I will not let go of Darjeeling.. it is very close to my heart. People should also know that Darjeeling has a democratically elected government as its guardian to protect the interest of its people and the region”.
Citing a recent High Court order, she said she will now be “rough and tough.. Independence Day is approaching.. this ( the obstruction caused by the bandh) cannot go on.. schools will have to be reopened, offices will have to resume work development work has to go on,” she said.
Ms. Banerjee also said that the second in command in the Gorkha Territorial Administration would be asked to take charge in view of the resignation tendered by its chairman.
Without naming anyone, she said “I appeal to the leadership to restore peace and development, ” adding that the state government will fulfil its Constitutional obligations. “We will be forced to take strong action”.
Narayan Pradhan, president of GJM Darjeeling Town Committee, was arrested early Saturday for cases of arson, attempt to murder and other criminal cases, police said. Acting on a tip-off, he was taken into custody early in the morning from a location in Darjeeling town, taking the total number of arrests to 149 in the hills, the police said.
Meanwhile, the bandh continues to paralyse life with shortage of food reported across the hills. All shops and other commercial establishments have been closed since the beginning of the indefinite bandh. Vehicular traffic on NH-31A, the lifeline of Sikkim, was also hit.