The murder of a school girl in Siliguri earlier last week led to a major shutdown in the hill districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in North Bengal.
Several political parties called for a 24-hour bandh, and the BJP organised a protest in response to the incident.
As a result of the shutdown, most vehicles stayed off the roads and shops and other establishments remained closed in areas such as Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, and Mirik.
A significant number of people chose to stay indoors during this time.
On Monday (26 August), the 17-year-old girl, who belonged to the Gorkha community, was brutally murdered by a 22-year-old man who attempted to sexually assault her.
Her body was discovered in a dilapidated house in the Matigara area of Siliguri in North Bengal.
The accused, Mohammed Abbas, was apprehended by the authorities the following day.
The situation escalated on Wednesday when mobs attacked and vandalised the house of the accused, as well as assaulted his family members.
To restore order, the police had to deploy Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel in the area.
The Gorkha Sewa Sena, a newly formed outfit, called for a 12-hour bandh on Saturday, which received support from the taxi associations in Kurseong, Darjeeling, and Kalimpong.
Subsequently, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Hamro Party, and CPRM also backed the bandh, extending it to a 24-hour shutdown.
However, essential services were exempted from the bandh, which commenced at 6 am.
This bandh marked the first major shutdown in the North Bengal hills since the 105-day closure in 2017, which was organised in support of the Gorkhaland statehood demand.
Ujjwal Rai, a member of the Gorkha Sewa Sena, expressed sadness over the incident and praised the positive response to the bandh from the people in the hills.
“The incident is extremely sad. People in the hills have responded to the bandh positively. We demand strong action against the culprit," Rai was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
The Trinamool Congress condemned the incident but did not support the shutdown.
Gautam Deb, a senior TMC leader and Siliguri Mayor, stated that the party's stance is against endorsing any bandh in the state.
"Once a bandh is observed, people are inconvenienced and normal is affected. The form of protest could have been different. We have to keep the hills peaceful," Deb said.
The TMC leader added that his party has also condemned the incident and organised rallies earlier in the week to mark their protest.
“The police have already arrested the accused. Investigation is on. Let law take its own course," the TMC leader said.
He emphasised the importance of allowing the law to take its course and urged against disrupting the peace in the area with bandh calls.
In response to the incident, the BJP organised a protest rally in Siliguri, led by party's Darjeeling MP Raju Bista.
The BJP MP called for a CBI inquiry into the matter, expressing a lack of faith in the impartiality of Mamata Banerjee's police.
“The Mamata Banerjee’s police do not work in an impartial manner. People have no faith in their investigation as they work to protect the Trinamool Congress only. Unless the CBI is probing the matter, the girl will not get justice,” he said.
A BJP delegation, headed by Matigara-Naxalbari MLA Anandamoy Barman, visited the victim's house and spoke with her family members on Saturday.
“Women and child trafficking cases are rising in this area. Anti-social activities are also going on without any check. Youth are falling prey to drugs. As a result, incidents like this are taking place. I demand capital punishment for the youth,” said Barman.
The chief of the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha, Anit Thapa, neither supported nor opposed the bandh. He emphasised that the matter was sub-judice, and therefore, it was crucial to let the law take its own course.
Thapa urged those who called for the bandh to understand the importance of allowing the law to take its own course.
Earlier on Thursday, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and BJP had organised a 12-hour bandh in Siliguri.
“The minor girl was murdered at an abandoned place in Siliguri’s Matigara area on Monday, as she was returning home from her school. The person who allegedly attempted to assault the minor girl sexually and then killed her has been arrested," said DCP Abhishek Gupta of Siliguri Metropolitan police.
The accused was presented in court on Tuesday and subsequently remanded in police custody.
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