Bus and car services between Siliguri, considered the gateway to the north east, and Gangtok were affected on Saturday as drivers of West Bengal registered vehicles stopped plying to Sikkim, inconveniencing a large number of tourists.
Several Sikkim registered cars were damaged by anti-Gorkhaland protesters and the services of Sikkim Nationalised Transport (SNT) from Siliguri was stopped. SNT additional general manager (operations) H L Lamichaney said its buses were not plying on Saturday out of fear.
“Local drivers have threatened us that they will torch our vehicles if we carry on with our services. We will resume our service if West Bengal government provides security to our buses,” Lamichaney said.
Sikkim-bound tourists were stranded at the SNT bus stand at Siliguri. Hundreds of tourists were seen standing in long queues at the SNT bus depot in Gangtok waiting to purchase tickets to Siliguri.
An indefinite bandh is being observed in Darjeeling hills by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) spearheading an agitation demanding separate Gorkhaland state. The unrest in Darjeeling in peak tourist season has come as a boon for Sikkim, a landlocked state, with tourists thronging the neighbouring hill state instead of Darjeeling.
But problem was created after Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling extended support for a separate Gorkhaland state on June 22. Drivers of tourist vehicles in Siliguri alleged that GJM activists were not allowing them to ply cars along NH-31A, the lone highway connecting Gangtok and Siliguri, but bandh supporters were not objecting to Sikkim registered cars.
“GJM is not stopping cars from Sikkim. Their chief minister has supported Gorkhaland. And our livelihood is at stake,” a driver said. They stopped a Sikkim-bound bus in the morning and later small cars from going to the neighbouring hill state. Two cars were damaged by a mob at Champasari as the drivers were not ready get down.
None was injured in the incident and police intervened and removed the two cars from the road.