Top men held, GJM calls fresh bandh

Six senior Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders, including an executive member of Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA), were arrested Thursday in connection with old cases pending against them, prompting the Morcha to call a fresh 48-hour bandh in Darjeeling beginning August 24, despite the fact that Calcutta High Court has termed such shutdowns illegal.

"The Hills will be closed Saturday and Sunday to condemn the unwanted arrests of GJM leaders," GJM president Bimal Gurung said in a Facebook post hours after senior Morcha leader Benoy Tamang — believed to be his most trusted man in Kalimpong subdivision — was arrested.

Gurung, who later held a public meeting at the Chowk Bazzar, also ruled out any dialogue with the West Bengal government over the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state.

"The state government is trying to break the movement by arresting our people in old political cases, which were supposed to have been withdrawn according to the GTA agreement," Gurung said in the meeting.

Tamang, assistant secretary of GJM and an executive member in-charge of information and culture department of the GTA, was arrested from his residence near the Sikkim-West Bengal border in Kalimpong subdivision early in the morning, police said.

In all, 40 GJM men, including Tamang and another top Morcha leader and GTA member Satish Pokhrel, were arrested Thursday, police said. Tamang, Pokhrel and some others were produced in a court in Kalimpong and remanded into 14 days judicial custody. With this, a total of 721 GJM men, including 13 GTA members, have been arrested since the agitation began on August 3.

Meanwhile, Gurung said that all the GJM men lodged in jails would go on an indefinite hunger strike till the cases against them were withdrawn.Reiterating that the Morcha will not start a dialogue with the Mamata Banerjee government, he said, "We will not talk to chief minister or any representative of the state government. Let the central government intervene. If a dialogue is needed, let the dialogue start between the central government and us. But we are ready to talk to Governor M K Narayanan."

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