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Hill strike after Morcha death
- Suspicion of GNLF hand in killing

May 18: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has called a 24-hour general strike across the Darjeeling hills on Thursday to protest the death of one of its members who was beaten up by alleged GNLF supporters three days ago.

Transport and cinchona and tea plantations have been kept outside the purview of the bandh, the first in the tourist season this year.

As news of Rabin Rai’s death reached the hills, mobs targeted houses of local GNLF leaders. Two houses were set on fire at Dilaram, 35km from Darjeeling town.

Police said while one of the houses was completely burnt, the other was partially damaged. Five houses were ransacked in Sonada. Two houses were pelted with stones in Kurseong. A house each in Takdah, which is in Darjeeling subdivision, and Kalimpong were attacked too.

Darjeeling police chief D.P. Singh said: “The situation is under control but still very volatile. Though there are sufficient forces, it is tough to cover all areas because of the terrain.”

Rai, who died this afternoon, had been struck in the neck during a clash between the GNLF and Morcha supporters in Raghubir busty near Sonada, 20km from Darjeeling, on Sunday. Since then he had been on a ventilator at a nursing home in Siliguri. His body was brought to Sonada late tonight.

GNLF leader Subash Ghisingh left the hills hours after the Sunday clash in Sonada. The Morcha had said that Ghisingh’s provocative speeches prompted his supporters to “un-sheath their khukuris”.

Today, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said in Darjeeling: “Our supporter Rabin Rai has passed away. As a mark of respect, our victory celebrations scheduled for tomorrow across the hills have been cancelled. We have also called a 24-hour general strike across the hills.”

The party’s decision to keep transport out of the strike’s purview is likely to bring relief to the nearly 10,000 tourists who have flocked the hills for the summer. Winter tourism is yet to pick up in Darjeeling where the industry does brisk business from March till mid-June and then takes a monsoon break of more than three months.

Another peak season is from October-November.

Tomorrow’s victory rally, the Morcha said, will be replaced by a protest march across the hills from 11am with party supporters carrying black flags.

Today, too, the Morcha organised a two-hour chakka jam or transport strike at Sonada, demanding the arrest of all the culprits involved in the incident.

The police have so far arrested four GNLF supporters for Sunday’s violence.

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