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Hills gear up for shutdown

Dec. 8: As residents began to stock up ahead of a three-day strike in Kalimpong, the Gorkha National Liberation Front appeared worried about the growing clout of the breakaway group in the hill subdivision.

The GNLF has called the strike from Tuesday to demand the arrest of C.K. Pradhan’s murderer and also to protest municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya’s remarks, insinuating that the party leadership was involved in the killing of the rebel leader on October 3.

Though the GNLF contends that Pradhan, a charismatic leader from Kalimpong, was “with the party till the end”, his family members said he had “fallen out” with party chief Subash Ghising and was about to split the party when he was killed. The party finally split on November 16, with the birth of GNLF(C), named after CK.

GNLF sources said the three-day strike was part of a strategy to counter “a swing of public mood” in favour of the breakaway group.

A rebel GNLF leader today lodged a complaint with the Kalimpong police alleging intimidation. Maximum Kalikotey, the local convener of GNLF(C), said two youths barged into his house on Eastman Road last evening and threatened him.

P. Pradhan, the officer-in-charge of Kalimpong, said Kalikotey has identified the youths in his complaint as a driver and brother of a DGHC councillor. The police are looking into it.

The harried residents of the hill town, who had been through a three-day strike after Pradhan’s murder on October 3, have begun storing provisions. Tour operators and hotel owners are worried that repeated strikes would again spell doom for them, as during the Gorkhaland movement.

Darjeeling superintendent of police Sanjay Chander today asked the GNLF to keep the route to Gangtok free during the strike but the party did not offer any immediate assurance.

In the past, the GNLF had allowed vehicles bound for Sikkim to pass during strikes.

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