Sunday, September 30, 2007


Darjeeling/Siliguri, Sept. 29: The Prashant Fan Club prevented the Siliguri fire from spreading to the hills by calling off today’s 12-hour bandh and protest march against yesterday’s violence in the plains.

Hill politicians assured would-be Puja tourists they were welcome and had nothing to fear about “security and hospitality”.
Curfew was lifted in most of Siliguri from 2pm, barring 11 specified areas around the court, the scene of the street battles and eight-hour hostage drama. But the army and the BSF continued their vigil.

In Darjeeling, GNLF leader Bimal Gurung announced around 11am that “in the interests of peace”, the bandh was being withdrawn.

The GNLF had not taken a stand on the bandh but Gurung’s stature had ensured that streets in Darjeeling and Kurseong remained deserted in the morning. Later, some shops in Darjeeling opened and vehicles began plying.

Kurseong continued to stay indoors but allowed vehicles travelling between Darjeeling and Siliguri to pass. Mirik saw a peaceful rally.

District magistrate Rajesh Pandey, speaking after an all-party meeting in Siliguri, said: “The situation is totally under control.”

Schools and colleges will remain closed on Monday but public examinations, such as railway recruitment, will be exempt. Pandey appealed to the people to ignore rumours such as the ones that sparked yesterday’s rioting.

Inspector-general of police (north Bengal) R.J.S. Nalwa said pro-Prashant Tamang marchers had “manhandled” a patient yesterday in front of a hospital, prompting retaliation by shopkeepers and bystanders. “But the story about a pregnant woman being kicked was false.”

Pandey confirmed that the march organisers had taken permission.