WHILE DARJEELING seemed to be getting back its normal pace on Saturday, two days after violent protests followed by Friday’s crippling dawn-to-dusk bandh, both Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee dug their heels in. While GJM on Sunday announced an indefinite shutdown of all government offices in the hills from Monday to push its demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland, Banerjee said, “We have compromised a lot, and it seems we have our back against the wall now.”
Schools, colleges, transport and emergency services have been exempted from the shutdown call. “From Monday, all offices of state government and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration will remain shut. All revenue-generating offices — such as electricity and mines — will also be closed. Banks will only remain open on Monday and Thursday,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told the media following a party meeting at Malidhura, near Darjeeling.
Targeting the state’s move to make Bengali a compulsory language in schools, Giri said, “All signboards in Darjeeling, Mirik, Kurseong, Kalimpong and other areas will have to be written in Nepali and English.” The GJM will also send a delegation to New Delhi to take up the issue of Gorkhaland with the Centre, he said. GJM is part of BJP-led NDA. In Siliguri, Banerjee indicated that the state government will act tough. She said the superintendent of police for Darjeeling has been changed and three senior IPS officers have been sent to deal with the situation in the hill town. Asked whether GJM chief Bimal Gurung could be arrested for Thursday’s violence, Banerjee, according to PTI, said, “If anybody has violated the law, he will be dealt with accordingly.” The GJM’s protests against “imposition of Bengali” had turned sparked clashes on Thursday. The party had called a 12-hour bandh until 8 pm on Friday, which was near-total.
Gurung on Saturday said he has “briefed” Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia about the “situation here, and atrocities committed against us”. Gurung said he will write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well. “We will go all out for Gorkhaland. We will not accept anything short of that,” he said. “I will shortly write to the PM, informing him how the state government is raining atrocities on us… imposing a language on us. We will say it is time for a separate state of Gorkhaland.”
Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP national general secretary and the party’s observer for West Bengal, also blamed Banerjee for the current impasse. “If she can sit with so many of her ministers, why not with GJM leaders? Her dictatorial attitude has resulted in this situation.”. On Gorkhaland, he said, “All parties should sit and talk. Options should be discussed…and the separate state’s boundaries. At present, it is too small.” Ahluwalia could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.