Protests in Darjeeling by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) against the TMC-led West Bengal government is likely to intensify on Monday following the GJM chief calling a shutdown of government offices for an indefinite period. Educational institutions, transport services and hotels, however, have not been included in the call for bandh. Banks have been told to open shutters only twice a week.
GJM president Bimal Gurung has also advised tourists visiting the region to make emergency exits as “untoward” incidences could occur.
The Morcha, an influential local political body, has been protesting against the implementation of Bengali language in government schools across the district and demanding creation of a separate state called ‘Gorkhaland’.
“The government has encroached on our identity, our language Nepali. We will never tolerate it. We are ready to court arrest, we will have to go to jail for the sake of the agitation,” Gurung said in retaliation to TMC.
“We will stick to our demand for a separate state and continue with the agitation for achieving it. Mamata Banerjee has forced us to renew the statehood demand, we will achieve it,” Gurung added.
The Morcha has called for a bandh in all state, central and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) offices, a threat to which the CM has responded strongly by issuing orders Sunday that stern action will be taken against those employees who do not turn up.
“State government offices situated in the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong including those provided with Grants-in-Aid by the state government would remain open and all the employees of those offices should report for duty on each day till the call for such bandh is not withdrawn,” the government order said, adding that those found absent would have to suffer loss of pay and their absence would be labelled as “break in service”.
The protests, which turned violent on Thursday, showed signs of simmering down on Saturday, but with a new call to cripple state administration, the hitherto peaceful hill town could see a surge in clashes. Army was called in to help restore peace in the region as violence began to spiral.
An NDA ally, the Morcha has been anxious about TMC gaining fervour in the hills. The ruling party had recently won civic body elections, making inroads in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, becoming the first party from the plains to do so.
with inputs from PTI