Shops near NJP station closed, vehicles refuse to ply  in protest against woman in “unsocial activities”
STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Siliguri, 11 November
Tourists and passengers were inconvenienced after local traders operating adjacent to the NJP railway station shut down their shops and stalled transport today.
The traders alleged that a woman trader involved in "unsocial activities", who had been driven away yesterday, is still doing business with the help of police.
Hundreds of passengers who reached NJP in the morning had to walk as rickshaws, city autos and taxis were not available. Some of them said they did not get police help as no policeman was present at the station.
A 65-year-old Shibmandir resident, Mr Milan Halder, said despite calling up ‘100’ to seek police assistance, police did not come to help the passengers. "I also called up the personal assistant of North Bengal Development Minister Gautam Deb. He assured us the situation would become normal soon but nothing has happened. I called up police but did not get any proper response. After waiting for a long time my family and I decided to walk," Mr Halder said.
A resident of Rajkot, Gujarat, Mr Asis Chandrani, who is visiting Gangtok with his family, said: "We do not know why the shops have shut down. City autos and taxis have been parked here but the drivers refuse to take us to our destination."
Some passengers were charged extra fare.
The local traders said shops and hotels were shut down and vehicles were not plying as a woman trader, Mrs Beauty Dey, was involved in some unsocial activities.
"We had repeatedly requested her to stop but she did not pay any heed. We asked her to leave the area yesterday. She had left with her belongings only to return in the evening with police protection. She then re-opened her shop. We condemn the way police helped her without consulting the local traders," said NJP Chattar Babsayee Samity president, Mr Narayan Ghosh.
However, Mrs Dey refuted the allegations. "Those traders have been threatening us without any reason. I am not involved in any illegal trade, rather those who have accused me are involved in illegal activities. Local INTTUC leader Bijan Nandy and other traders had beaten up my son and me in the party office and ransacked my garment shop," she said.
"When they drove me out I informed police and with their help I reopened my shop last evening. The local traders even threatened to murder us. I am very scared," said Mrs Dey.
Brushing aside the allegations, the INTTUC Darjeeling district core committee member and NJP unit INTTUC president Mr Nandy said the traders protested after police helped Mrs Dey.
"We just asked her to leave the place. We are not involved in shutting down the shops. It was a spontaneous protest by traders against police move to help the woman. The passengers and tourists have been inconvenienced by this and we are sorry," he said
Siliguri Additional Deputy Police Commissioner (East), Mr K Sabari Rajkumar, said police had to intervene as Mrs Dey sought police help to reopen her shop.
"The woman lodged an FIR against some people. We are looking into the matter," Mr Rajkumar said.
When asked about the problems faced by passengers, he said police could not put pressure on private transport operators. "But we told them, if they have any grievances they can discuss it with police and try to resolve the issue. But harassing passengers and tourists will not be tolerated," he said.
Meanwhile, in a separate incident a passenger, Mr A S Ahmed, died of a stroke at NJP station today. He was declared brought dead when taken to NJP railway hospital.