Hill traffic clampdown on rally day – Traffic off Darjeeling town & key roads when GNLF, Morcha hold rallies

The Telegraph

RAJEEV RAVIDAS

Kalimpong, April 4: Several hill traffic shutdowns are expected to inconvenience residents and tourists in Darjeeling tomorrow when the Morcha and the GNLF will hold several meetings.

In Darjeeling, the All Transport Joint Action Committee, an affiliate of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has decided not to run vehicles in the town for two hours from 11am in view of the party’s rally at Chowkbazar, near Chowrastha, tomorrow.

The police have also decided to block Pankhabari Road and Rohini Road from 9am-3pm and the road to Darjeeling via Mirik for some time depending on the flow of traffic.

Tour operators said visitors would suffer because of the traffic clampdowns.

The GNLF will hold foundation day meetings at Simulbari and Barbotey, about 20km from Siliguri, and Mirik, about 5km from Siliguri between 9am and 3pm. The Yuva Morcha would also hold rallies around the same time, but the venues for these have not been announced yet.

Although the Yuva Morcha has claimed its meetings have nothing to do with its rival’s programmes, it is known that the Morcha generally organises programmes on April 5 to put a spanner in the GNLF’s plans for its foundation day.

Also, GNLF supporters may find it tough to reach the party’s public meetings at Simulbari, which is close to Rohini Road, and Barbotey, close to Darjeeling town. The Mirik meeting turnout could also be affected if the police block traffic on that route.

Kunal Agarwal, the superintendent of police of Darjeeling district, said vehicles plying between Darjeeling and Siliguri will have to take the Mungpoo and Teesta routes. “The Mirik route will be closed for some time. Depending on the flow of traffic, we will regulate movement on the route,” he said.

The Mungpoo and Teesta routes increase the travel time between Siliguri and Darjeeling by about an hour and a half. Usually, it takes around three-and-a-half hours to travel between Siliguri and Darjeeling.

Contingents of the CRPF and the Indian Reserve Battalion would be deployed at the GNLF meeting venues, the police said. “We will deploy the IRB (Indian Reserve Battalion) and CRPF personnel in possible trouble spots. The CRPF personnel will be deployed in Simulbari, Mirik and Barbotey where the GNLF have got permission to hold meetings,” Agarwal said.

Police sources said they apprehend that Morcha and GNLF activists may try to create trouble at each other’s rallies.

“The disruption of vehicular movement will affect the tourists the most, especially those who are returning home and have to catch flights and trains (from Bagdogra and New Jalpaiguri),” said a tour operator who did not wish to be named.

Pankhabari Road is the a road tourists take to go down to Siliguri. Industry sources said around 7,000-8,000 tourists are in the hills now.

Apart from three public meetings, the GNLF supporters will put party flags atop their houses to mark the foundation day.

“The party flags will be hoisted at different places throughout the hills tomorrow. We have only scheduled three public meetings at Simulbari, Mirik and Barbotey. Simulbari will probably witness the largest turnout of about 10,000 people,” said Arjun Rai, the convenor of the GNLF’s Mirik unit.

The Morcha will also hold a rally in Kalimpong tomorrow.

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