Fresh Protests Erupt in Darjeeling: Army redeployed after tensions spiral out of control in hills: GJM rules out talks with WB govt

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), spearheading the agitation for a separate state carved out of West Bengal, claimed that two youths were killed in police firing and rejected Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s offer of talks.

 

The statehood demand for Gorkhaland has been simmering over the last couple of months with violent protests and clashes in Darjeeling and neighboring areas. The agitation is led primarily by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and its chief Bimal Gurung.

 

The demand, almost a century old, picked up steam earlier this year when the West Bengal government said that Bengali language would be made mandatory from class 1 in schools across the state, including the hills.

 

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to make Bengali a compulsory had a disastrous fallout of such myopia which can be seen in Darjeeling where it has led to the renewal of the demand for a separate state, viz. Gorkhaland, by the Nepali-speaking population of the region.

Although after the agitation started the Chief Minister expressed her willingness not to make the subject compulsory, she did not want to give a written commitment. The result has been that the agitation has led to a virtual shutdown of Darjeeling and adjacent areas, including the tea gardens.

The death of a Gorkha National Liberation Front supporter in Sonada area of the hills triggered fresh tensions in Darjeeling on July 8, 2017.The GNLF supporter Tashi Bhutia died of bullet injuries late on July 7, 2017.

 

“He received bullet injuries on his forehead. He had come out in the night to get medicines for his brothers who have gastric problems. On the way he met a convoy of security forces and he was shot at point-blank range,” Neeraj Zimba the spokesperson of GNLF said.

 

 

Fresh Protests Erupt in Darjeeling: Army redeployed
Image Courtesy :Rediffmail

 

 

 

As the situation continued to deteriorate through the day, the government decided to call in the army , the second time in exactly a month after Darjeeling turned restive.

 

“Two army columns have been deployed – one in Darjeeling, one in Sonada, where one railway station was set afire,” a Defence Ministry spokesman said in Kolkata. One army column comprises 43 personnel.

 

The chief minister said the situation in Darjeeling went out of hand because of the center’s refusal to despatch central paramilitary forces. Eleven companies of the Central Reserve Police Force are already deployed in the hills of West Bengal, where an indefinite strike for the past 24 days has led to a shortage of food and other essential items.

According to a home ministry official in New Delhi, the chief minister’s allegation was baseless because the state itself had earlier in the week refused the center’s offer for sending more forces to deal with communal violence in North 24 Parganas district. That aside, the state had several battalions of reserve forces under its own control, which it could immediately deploy, this person said, asking not to be named.

Barring medicine outlets, all shops, schools, colleges remained closed. Internet services remained suspended for the 21st day. The police and the security forces patrolled the streets and kept a vigil on the entry and exit routes.

 

The Centre had said yesterday that it was keen to hold tripartite talks with the GJM and the West Bengal government to end the agitation. With food supply severely hit due to the indefinite strike, the GJM and various NGOs distributed food amongst the people.

 

Fresh Protests Erupt in Darjeeling
Image courtesy: News from Darjeeling, Dooars & Sikkim

Courtesy: News from Darjeeling, Dooars & Sikkim

 

The GJM, an ally of the BJP, has refused to talk to the state government and insisted on tripartite negotiations on statehood. The GJM which has been protesting for a separate state to be carved out of West Bengal, in a statement said, that the doors for talks with Banerjee and the state government are ‘closed forever’. 

The resurgence of violence between Friday and Saturday, that claimed three lives, has actually helped the Gorkha National Liberation Front inch closer to the GJM on the issue of Gorkhaland, barely days after speculations of a rift.

 

We feel that things are only going to deteriorate in the days to come unless the Centre steps in,” GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba told sources.

 

Earlier this week, the newly formed 30-member Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee decided to continue the indefinite bandh in the hills that entered 24th day on Saturday.

 

The GJM, which administers the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, revived the 110-year-old demand for a separate state after a police raid on the office of Gurung.

 

The indefinite strike in the Hills, that began after the police raid on GJM president Bimal Gurung’s residence at Patlewas, completed its third week on Saturday. Though the GNLF, a Trinamool rally in the last elections, preferred a cautious approach initially, the party had no option but to join the movement for a separate state after the deaths of three GJM supporters in police firing.

 

On June 17, 2017, three Gorkha Janmukti Morcha  (GJM) supporters were killed allegedly in police firing during the pro-Gorkhaland rallies. The Darjeeling hills in the northernmost part of North Bengal has been on the boil since the first week of June 2017 over the demand of separate State. There is also a near total shutdown in the hills since June 15, 2017.

 

Barely a few days ago, GJM leaders started alleging that the GNLF is attempting to weaken the movement by calling for greater autonomy under Schedule 6 of the Constitution.

 

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