“Police have let loose a reign of terror at Kalchini with the district administration looking the other way,” Mr Toppo alleged.
He also joined issue with the Centre and the state government for having taken the Gorkhaland demand. “We would deliberate on the outcome of yesterday's three-way dialogue tomorrow and following this we would frame our future course of action around the ethnically ticklish Gorkhaland issue,” he said.
However, taking a slightly softened stand on the shutdown programme, the ABAVP Terai unit secretary, Mr Susil Tirkey said that they would wait till 26 December to find whether Mr Raju Bara was released. “We would see the administration's reaction to our programme. If it remains non- challant we would move according to our pre ordained agitation programme,” Mr Tirkey said.
India campaign for Gorkha state gathers pace
By Chris Morris
BBC News, Darjeeling
Driving up into the Darjeeling hills one thing quickly becomes apparent - and it's a deliberate message for outsiders.
The green, white and yellow of Gorkhaland is everywhere - painted on walls, on curb stones, on banners and posters.
"Welcome to Gorkhaland", they boldly declare. "Gorkhaland is our birthright."
The demand for a separate state within India for the Gorkhas isn't new. This is a campaign that started more than 100 years ago.
But the central government's apparent willingness to create a new state in south India, carving Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh, has got these northern hills buzzing with indignation.
If they can do it, the Gorkhas ask, why can't we?
'Ready to fight'
At 94 years old and now profoundly deaf, PB Tamang has seen it all before.
He is a Gorkha veteran who fought for the British in Burma in World War II and later in the jungles of Malaya.
Sitting in his garden, sipping a cup of tea, he listened patiently as members of his family shouted questions in his ear.
The Gorkhaland signboard is everywhere
"I'm ready to fight again," he declared, punching the air for emphasis, "this time for Gorkhaland."
Most Gorkhas who served in the British army are from Nepal.
But there are plenty of veterans who are now Indian citizens.
Mr Tamang still receives a British pension of £470 per month.
His brother-in-law, IB Tamang, another British veteran, says things are peaceful at the moment.
But resentment is simmering just beneath the surface.
"If the demand is not conceded by the government," he warned, "it might bring a great upheaval, and it might bring bloodshed."
Back in the 1980s more than 1,000 people were killed in a violent uprising in these hills, but for now the battle lines have been re-drawn. Hunger strike
The focus is on peaceful protest and passive resistance, following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi.
There have been a series of hunger strikes across the region.
On one bitterly cold morning recently I watched as 21 men lay in a makeshift tent opposite the district magistrate's office in Darjeeling.
None of them had taken food or fluids for several days. PB Tamang says he is ready to fight again
One man was screaming out in pain as severe dehydration began to take its toll. Doctors tried in vain to comfort him.
"We just want Gorkhaland for our identity," said another of the hunger strikers, David Rai, a 54-year-old teacher huddled beneath several blankets.
Speaking in a voice weak with exhaustion, he told me that the Gorkhas didn't belong in the state of West Bengal.
"We are Indians. But when we go elsewhere in India, people say I don't look Bengali. So I have to tell them I'm an Indian Gorkha, and I'm not a foreigner."
So Darjeeling is up in arms. There are constant strikes and demonstrations, and no-one is paying their taxes or utility bills to the state and central governments.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), the movement at the forefront of the Gorkhaland campaign, has even sought to ban alcohol to avoid anyone paying excise duty.
But there are also whispers of coercion, and suggestions that dissent isn't really tolerated.
"No, it isn't true," replied Bimal Gurung, the GJM leader.
"Our movement is trying to appeal to everyone in the hills, including minority groups. We're not out to isolate anyone and we're not out to intimidate anyone."
On Darjeeling's famous tea estates, they are pruning the tea bushes in preparation for next year's harvest.
There have been a series of hunger strikes across the region
Almost 70% of the local population rely on the estates in some way for their livelihood.
So what effect would a declaration of Gorkhaland actually have on the local economy? In the end, it all comes down to money.
"I think the tea industry would stand to gain," says Sandeep Mukherjee, the Secretary of the Darjeeling Tea Association.
"My personal view is that with more funds being allocated, the infrastructure of this region is likely to come up and the industry would benefit."
On Darjeeling's crowded shopping streets normal life continues at a hectic pace. But every shop has the word "Gorkhaland" painted on its signboard, and there's green, white and yellow bunting everywhere.
On the surface, it is an impressive display of local patriotism and support for the cause.
'Do not split'
And similar demands for statehood are springing up right across this vast country.
"We're an ancient civilisation but a young nation," said Ram Guha, one of India's leading historians.
"I think we're still finding the best political forms to meet the aspirations of our people - how big our states should be, and what the respective powers of the centre, the state and local municipalities should be."
Current state governments are understandably cautious. They don't want their powers diluted.
Chief Minister of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has already rejected the Gorkhaland demand and warned that the situation will become "complicated" if the GJM refuses to be flexible.
"I'm once again telling them," he told a recent public rally, "not to think about splitting from us."
But Ram Guha is one of those who argue that it could be time to have another look at how the Indian political system is organised.
"I don't think we should be unduly worried about these demands, and I don't think they threaten the unity of India in any way," he explained.
"They are manifestations of a certain discontent with the present arrangements."
The trouble is that India has so many ethnic and linguistic groups, so many tribes and castes. They can't all have their own state.
But the Gorkhas have always been a proud, martial race.
And they seem determined to fight for this cause - for their own cause - for as long as it takes.
Tipple rush in parched hills
OUR BUREAU - The Telegraph
A liquor shop in Darjeeling on Wednesday, teeming with customers who bought cartons (in circle) of booze and hired porters (extreme left) to ferry them. (Suman Tamang)
Dec. 23: Hill residents came in droves as soon as liquor shop shutters went up this morn- ing, many with porters to carry the bottles, making it evident how stifled the “ban” on booze had made them feel.
With the shops opening after almost a month and a half, if only for a few days, and with the festive season upon them, they were not content buying just a bottle or two. They bought by the carton.
Within an hour, the shops, already low on stocks, dried up and parched tipplers started placing advance orders.
Last evening, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which had banned the sale of liquor in the hills to deprive the government of excise, announced a relaxation till December 25. Today, residents of Darjeeling and Kalimpong started stocking up for another dry spell.
“It is such a relief to have the shops open again,” said a Darjeeling youth. “This is the season to rejoice. And what is rejoicing in this cold without a drop to lift the spirits?”
Local brew like chhang and roksi, which people make at home in the hills, were the only liquor exempted from the Morcha ban.
However, a Kalimpong youth suggested that some hill people had defeated the Morcha ban even before the relaxation. “My friends and I have been buying liquor in the black market at double the price,” he said.
Shops, which ran out of liquor today, have placed orders with wholesellers in Siliguri. “It’s wonderful to have my shop open again,” said an off-shop owner off Darjeeling’s Jawaharlal Nehru Road. “Judging by the rush, the people of the hills have really been missing their liquor. I can hardly recall any occasion in the past when people bought by the carton.”
Dharmendra Poddar of the Darjeeling Bar and Off-shop Owners’ Association, called it “really fantastic”. “Our suppliers in Siliguri have said they cannot meet our orders in a single day,” said Poddar.