Darjeeling GJM unrest: Uneasy calm as Mamata Banerjee calls for peace before heading abroad

Published on Jun 19 2017 - - India - -

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Barnerjee appealed for calm and peace after a weekend of violence in Darjeeling hills, where the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is observing an indefinite shutdown.
Uneasy calm prevailed on Sunday after GJM activists were allegedly shot dead by security forces in clashes on Saturday. The protesters, who are pressing for a separate state of Gorkhaland, took out a large rally on Sunday with the bodies of activists allegedly killed in police firing.
CM Banerjee, who left for the Netherlands today, accused GJM of trying to create an “ethnic” divide in Darjeeling and said violence won’t be tolerated. The Darjeeling bandh, which was sparked over the West Bengal government’s purported decision to make Bengali compulsory in state schools, completed a week today.
DARJEELING UNREST: THE LATEST
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on her way to the Netherlands, said her ministers were monitoring the situation in the Darjeeling hills and the Dooars. They (GJM) are trying to create an ethnic riot in Darjeeling, this is not right. I appeal to everyone to maintain peace,” Mamata said, adding that violence will not be tolerated.
Sunday witnessed massive protests in Darjeeling and sporadic incidents of violence in Kalimpong and Kurseong after the GJM called a “black day” in the north Bengal hills. The GJM’s 12-hour strike in Dooars — foothills covering parts of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts — received lukewarm response.
Compared to Saturday, Sunday was largely peaceful with reports sporadic violence and no reports of clashes between protesters and police. GJM supporters allegedly vandalised two cars in Kurseong and torched three panchayat offices in the neighbouring Kalimpong district while a prominent library in Kalimpong town went ablaze with the administration blaming ‘GJM-backed goons’ for it.
Darjeeling, on the other hand, saw a large rally. Holding aloft the tricolour, GJM youth members led the rally from Chawk Bazar, the famous lower market area on the Hill cart Road in Darjeeling, passionately shouting pro-Gorkhaland slogans. Shouts of “Police go back” and “Gorkhaland-Gorkhaland” reverberated through the picturesque hills as some Gorkha activists claimed that the protest has shifted from the political to the commoners’ movement in the hills.
The rally in Darjeeling saw protesters carry coffins of three activists allegedly killed in police firing on Saturday. The claims have been denied by West Bengal officials. “There are more than 15,000 people in the rally today. This is not just GJM. People of the hills have come together to demand separate Gorkhaland. Let’s see how far we can go,” a young woman was heard telling the media.
Superintendent of Police Akhilesh Kumar Chaturvedi, however, denied the large turnout, saying that only around 2,000 protesters had participated in the rally. Speaking to news agency IANS Chaturvedi also said the rally “was by and large peaceful. There were no instances of violence in Darjeeling today”. The rally was preceded by a silent march of civilians demanding peace be restored to the region.
Terming the situation “very very volatile”, GJM leader Amar Singh Rai claimed that a separate state of Gorkhaland is the biggest priority for them and rebuffed any possibility of discussions with the Bengal government. “We will seek a discussion with the Centre. But only on one agenda — a separate state of Gorkhaland,” he added.
Notably, on Sunday, the GJM, a Bharatiya Janata Party ally, slammed the Narendra Modi government, expressing disappointment over the centre’s role. The GJM also questioned why the BJP MP from Darjeeling, SS Ahluwalia, has not visited the place once since the unrest began.
Effects of the strike reverberated in New Delhi where Gorkhas protested against Mamata Banerjee in the national capital. Hundreds of Gorkhas gathered at Jantar Mantar with national flags and banners saying ‘We want Gorkhaland’.
The GJM announced an indefinite general strike from last Monday in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and the Dooars to oppose the government’s purported decision to make study of Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools — despite the government clarification this would not be applicable in this region — and to press for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

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