Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee termed the bandh called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) as "illegal" and met stranded tourists in Darjeeling to assure them of their safe return.
"I ask the tourists not to worry. The government is there for you. We have full support for tourists specially,” she said while meeting tourists at Mall Road.
Thousands of tourists, including foreign nationals, have been stranded in the hills since Thursday following violent clashes between Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters and the police over making Bangla language “compulsory” in schools.
A group of tourists, who spend the night in a shelter house as hotels are locked, complained that they had no money left to return home.
Responding to them, Mamata said, “I have asked the local administration to do the needful. We have arranged 10 special buses for Siliguri, Bagdogra and Kolkata. It will start from Tenzing Norgay bus terminus at 11 am. Also, Army jawans are marching on streets for the safety of tourists.”
“No one is above the law. The government will take action against those who participate (in violence). We want peace and development of the hills. The government is not going to tolerate these things. Only 3-4 people are responsible for this incident. They cannot fight us on the developmental issue so are they are doing this,” she said.
Two columns of Army were deployed in Darjeeling town after GJM supporters clashed with the police, damaged police vehicles and set some of them ablaze while the West Bengal chief minister was holding a cabinet meeting there. The police resorted to baton charge and fired tear gas shells to disperse the agitators who tried to march to the venue of the cabinet meeting.
On Friday, GJM chief Bimal Gurung dared Mamata, saying he was the “Chief Minister of the Hills”. “She might be the Chief Minister of Bengal, but I am the Chief Minister of Hills,” Gurung said.
A case has been lodged against Bimal Gurung and others for rioting and arson. Sources said morning raids were conducted at several places to arrest them but all of them went into hiding.