SILIGURI: Even as the agitation for Gorkhaland statehood continues to keep the Darjeeling hills in lockdown mode, a counter agitation is brewing in the plains around Siliguri.
While Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters, as promised, broke tube lights on their backs and burnt the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) accord Tuesday, ethnic Bengali organisations in the plains threatened to block essential supplies from going to the hills.
"If Bimal Gurung (the GJM boss) is not arrested and the blockade of the hills is not lifted, not a single Nepali will remain in the plains. We will block supplies to the hills," said Khushiranjan Mondal, the central organisational secretary of Amra Bangali, a group fighting to keep West Bengal undivided.
A big rally to oppose Gorkhaland is planned for Friday. Anti-bifurcation supporters like Mondal acknowledge that the present burst of Gorkhaland fervor in the hills has started stoking ethnic passions in the plains. "Our boys vandalised Sikkim vehicles as they were not allowing West Bengal vehicles to ply along National Highway 10," Mondal claimed.
"The illegal bandh by Bimal Gurung is affecting the economy of Darjeeling district as a whole. On the other hand, Sikkim vehicles are taking supplies from Siliguri. We will impose an economic blockade of both Darjeeling hills and Sikkim," said Bangla o Bangla Bhasha Bachao Committee president Dr Mukunda Majumdar.
The counter agitation by Bengali organisations has made Gorkhas insecure in the plains where they are a minority.
"Our tensions have risen after a video was circulated in which a Sikkimese boy is seen being forced to shout slogans like 'Jai Bangla' in Siliguri," said Pradhan Nagar resident Pratiksha Rai, a Nepali speaker.
Hakimpara resident Yashwant Sarki said his Bengali neighbours subtly nudge him to go home to Kalimpong. "They ask me when I plan to go home and hint that the situation in Siliguri may become bad for Gorkhas," he said.
Another Gorkha resident, Samiksha Thapa said she has begun to be scared. "Everyday on my way to office, I see this elderly man who raises the Gorkhaland topic whenever he sees my face. I live alone and I feel scared to confront him," she said.