Amid the ensuing unrest, sporadic violence, demonstrations in the north Bengal hills, a delegation of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha lawmakers on Friday met West Bengal Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi to inform him about the situation in the hills.
“Three of our MLAs – Amar Singh Rai, Sarita Rai and Rohit Sharma – went to meet the governor today (Friday) to inform him about the present situation in the hills and the demand of the local people,” GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri said.
“I am not completely aware of the conversation between them as I am in Delhi. The Governor should be made aware of people’s suffering in the hills and the state government’s extreme measures to curb any form of movement in the region,” he said.
After Thursday’s massive clash between police and the GJM activists following a raid at the party chief Bimal Gurung’s house, the Darjeeling Hills continues to be tense with rallies and counter-rallies, both by the Morcha activists and state ruling party throughout Friday.
Early on Friday morning, the GJM supporters torched a panchayat office at Mirik, a hydroelectric supply office at Lodhama in Darjeeling and a health centre in Rimbik-Lodhama.
Accusing police of high handedness and oppression, the women wing of GJM took out a rally in Darjeeling town in the afternoon.
The activists carrying Indian national flag were seen shouting slogans in demand of the separate state of Gorkhaland. However, they were stopped midway by police and central forces.
Countering the GJM rally, the Trinamool Congress members took out a protest rally in Darjeeling district’s Mirik subdivision, a party stronghold after its victory in the recent municipal elections.
Blaming the GJM for continuous violence and arson in the hills, the participants in the rally demanded the removal of Gurung.
Slogans like “Bimal Gurung Dur Haato” (Bimal Gurung Go away) were shouted from the gathering.
The hotels mostly remained shut throughout the day.
A long queue could be seen at the bus station as tourists and hotel workers prepared to leave the hills. Local administration arranged bus services so that stranded tourists could get to Siliguri.
Meanwhile, the activists of the Gorkha National Liberation Front, a Trinamool Congress ally in the last state assembly election, and Jana Andolan Party (JAP) hit the streets supporting the GJM sponsored indefinite shutdown in the hills.
“The state government’s policy is alienating them more and more from the people in the hills. This is not a good sign,” JAP chief Harka Bahadur Chettri said and urged the state government to start a discussion with the local parties in the hills.
“It seems that there is a clash of ego between the state government and GJM. There should be meetings and discussions in the hills to sort out the situation. No political solution can be achieved through police action,” he
The GJM announced an indefinite general strike from Monday in the hills encompassing Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and the Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas covering stretches of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar district) protesting against the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to make Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools. The strike was called even as the Chief Minister assured that the new rule would not be imposed in the hill districts.
In Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blamed intelligence failure for the fresh unrest in the hills, where the GJM sponsored shutdown entered the fifth day.