Thousands of tourists stranded in "tea country" by ethnic protests

Darjeeling and other districts of western Bengal are paralyzed by a strike of the ethnic Gorkha party. They are asking for the creation of an independent state, and are accusing the ruling Marxists of aggression. There are not even enough vehicles available to take tourists to the airport.
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thousands of tourists have been stranded by the sudden strike that has paralysed “tea country”: the districts of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Kurseong in the northern part of western Bengal. The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) party says that the protest is in response to the aggression committed against some of its members by supporters of the ruling Marxist party.
About 50 supporters of the GJM were occupying a highway leading to Darjeeling, in protest over the ban against holding a public meeting in Naxalbari, when they were allegedly attacked “without provocation”. The GJM also denounces other acts of aggression, while the communists deny any involvement.
Roshan Giri, secretary of the GJM, explains that “we are forced to call this indefinite strike because we have lost all faith in the West Bengal government”, which he accuses of “stopping us from holding rallies peacefully, they are trying to provoke an ugly situation”. The GJM is asking for a separate state for the Gorkha ethnicity, and says the strike will continue until it obtains one. The Gorkhas, of Nepalese origin and language, are in the majority in Darjeeling, but are a minority in the state compared to the Bengalese and Hindi.
The sudden strike has stranded thousands of tourists in the three districts, left without enough vehicles to take them to the airport. Darjeeling, famous for its tea and for its natural beauty, is a common destination for foreign tourists.
During the 1980’s, the demands of the Gorkhas erupted into guerrilla warfare, but in the end they settled for greater administrative autonomy. But in 2007, the GJM was formed, and resumed demands for independence. Also in 2007, violent ethnic protests led to the imposition of a curfew. (Asianews)


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