Darjeeling: Cracking down on the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the West Bengal government Monday arrested a close associate of its chief Bimal Gurung, even as normal life remained paralysed for the third day in the Darjeeling hills following its indefinite shutdown to demand Gorkhaland.
Anit Thapa, an elected member of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), was nabbed from Kurseong sub-division in Darjeeling district in an old case, police said.
Thapa's arrest is being interpreted as an attempt by the state government to put pressure on the GJM, which has intensified its demand for Gorkhaland out of parts of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts after the centre's ruling United Progressive Alliance endorsed statehood to Telangana last week.
Reacting sharply to Thapa's arrest, Gurung said: "He is innocent. The action is intended at striking fears in the ranks of the GJM. But the government will not succeed. We'll have a more intense movement in the hills."
Angry GJM supporters have laid siege to the Kurseong police station where Thapa has been held. A few other police stations are also under siege by the GJM activists.
Earlier in the day, Gurung had ruled out any talks with the state government and warned it not to use force to jeopardise the ongoing shutdown.
"We will not have any talks with the state government. Our discussions with the central government is on the right course.
"If the state government dares to use force to foil out movement, it will have grave consequences. The government will be solely responsible," he said while participating in the last rites of GJM youth wing worker Mangal Singh Rajput, who set himself on fire July 30 in Kalimpong in support of the Gorkhaland demand and died of his injuries Saturday.
Gurung described Rajput as the martyr for the cause of Gorkhaland.
Meanwhile, state Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee left for Darjeeling during the day to take stock of the situation in the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.
Several other GJM activists were rounded up in connection with the torching of the Takdha forst bungalow in Darjeeling sub-division Thursday night.
In the hills, central and state government offices, shops, markets, business and commercial establishments, post offices remained closed, and vehicles did not hit the roads.
In Delhi, a delegation led by GJM general secretary Roshan Giri called on Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj during the day.
Giri later claimed that she told them that her party preferred creation of smaller states and the issue will be raised in the party's parliamentary board.