May 22: Over 800 supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today stopped Trinamul Congress leader K.N. Subba from entering Kalimpong near Gorubathan, leading to tension in the area after which local traders closed their shops.
The blockade by Morcha supporters also led to disruption in the movement of several tourist vehicles going to Kalimpong, Lava and Loleygaon at the beginning of the peak tourism season in the hills.
Subba, a former DGHC councillor and GNLF leader who joined Trinamul in February this year, was going to his Kalimpong home through Gorubathan from Siliguri.
Around 8.30pm, a Trinamul hill leader took Subba to his house near Gorubathan, after which the Morcha supporters dispersed.
Although the Morcha and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul-led government are making efforts to mend fences after almost four months of sparring, the hill party is against Trinamul’s presence on its turf.
Subba, who has always been an anti-Morcha face, with 50-odd Trinamul supporters was going to Kalimpong when he was stopped at Pandara, a kilometre from Gorubathan.
“I had been staying away from Gorubathan since November last year and was returning home today. A section of Morcha supporters intercepted me and denied me entry to Gorubathan…. This is blatant infringement of human rights. I have informed the matter to senior Trinamul leaders and have sought police intervention,” Subba said earlier in the evening.
Gorubathan is around 60km from Siliguri and 70km from Jalpaiguri.
According to local sources, as Morcha supporters came to know about Subba’s return to Gorubathan, they assembled at Pandara around 10am.
Local residents, who learnt about the blockade and the reason behind it, downed shutters of their shops and went indoors, apprehending a political clash.
Hundreds of Morcha supporters blocked the road connecting Gorubathan with Dooars via Damdim and Fagu Tea Estate.
“During his tenure as a DGHC councillor, K.N. Subba had siphoned crores of rupees and not done anything for the development of Gorubathan. We have thus put the blockade,” said Kusha Lama, a local Morcha leader.
After Subba’s convoy of cars stopped, and the Trinamul leader refused to budge, both sides called the police.
Police from Gorubathan and adjoining areas reached the spot and kept vigil on both sides, standing about half-a-kilometre apart.
When neither backed out S. Lepcha, the additional superintendent of police of Kalimpong, dame to the spot at 5.30pm.
She tried to reason with the Morcha agitators, but they did not listen.
“He is the vice-president of Trinamul’s hill committee and was on his way home when the Morcha supporters, in an undemocratic fashion, stopped him. The Morcha is maintaining double standards as it is speaking of democracy on the one hand and stopping our leaders from going to their homes on the other,” said Rajen Mukhia, the convener of Trinamul hill committee.
“We have been in constant touch with the administration but no proper intervention has been witnessed from their side so far.”
The blockade, which commenced at 10am and was on till 7pm, caused harassment to hundreds of tourists who had taken vehicles in Dooars and were heading to Lava, Loleygaon and even Kalimpong.
They could not enter the hills.
They had to wait for hours on the road and most of them preferred to return to Dooars.
Among those who suffered because of the sudden blockade and agitation were Mallika Sarkar, Mousumi Das and Shahjahan Khan from Santoshpur in Calcutta as well as Champak Ghosh and Pradip Ghosh from Howrah.
“We were going to Lava and Loleygaon through Gorubathan but had to stop because of the sudden blockade. Peace has been there across hills for sometime and thousands of tourists are visiting the region,” Pradip Ghosh, a tourist, said, in a disappointing note.
“However, if demonstrations and blockades are held in such a rampant way, tourist inflow would be affected in the region,” he added.
Mallika Sarkar said her group waited for over three hours and finally cancelled the trip to Lava.
“We waited till 2pm and then decided to return to Lataguri (in the Dooars) as the driver said Lava is another 40km drive from Gorubathan and we cannot cover the distance during daylight,” she said.
“With utter disappointment, we had to cancel the trip and will return to Lataguri.”