As the indefinite strike called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) enters its seventh day in Darjeeling Hills, protests over the demand for a separate state are set to intensify as GJM supporters assembled at Chowk Bazaar on Sunday morning. The silent rally was carried out to protest against the death of three activists. GJM chief Bimal Gurung had asked his supporters to defy curfew and gather for Sunday’s protest.
On Saturday, at least three activists of the GJM were killed and several persons injured as protesters clashed with police in Darjeeling Hills. A senior police officer was also injured and is said to be in a critical condition. While the GJM claimed their three of their cadre were killed in police firing, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee denied the allegations. Army troops have also been deployed in the region.
The current unrest in Darjeeling began after the West Bengal government announced making Bengali a mandatory language in the schools of the region.
Darjeeling unrest highlights
2.10 pm: Crowds swell as Gorkhaland supporters join the protest rally in Darjeeling on Sunday. News agency PTI reported the protesters were carrying the body of a GJM activist, who was killed during clashes with police on Saturday.
2.00 pm: “We think the police and security personnel should be immediately removed from Darjeeling to create a conducive environment for talks. The government should allow us to carry out peaceful and democratic agitation,” Darjeeling MLA Amar Rai of the GJM was quoted as saying by PTI.
1.55 pm: Protesters carry black flags and Tricolour after assembling at Chowk bazar. Slogans demanding removal of police and security personnel from Darjeeling could be heard.
Here’s a round-up of what has happened so far
#Gorkha agitation stir renewed after West Bengal government makes Bengali mandatory in all schools in the region.
#Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-led by Bimal Gurung intensifies its demands for a separate state of Gorkhaland calling an indefinite bandh in the region from June 12.
#Saturday’s protests take a violent turn with GJM claiming that three of its cadres were killed in police firing. Police and state government denied the claim. India Reserve Battalion (IRB) assistant commandant sustains critical injuries after allegedly being attacked by protesters.
#CM Mamata Banerjee on Saturday claims the agitation has the support of insurgent groups. Bimal Gurung denies such claims calling them ‘white lies.’
#GJM activists and supports take out a silent rally on Sunday morning protesting against the deaths.
#Home Minister Rajnath Singh appeals for calm and says the Gorkhaland issue can be resolved through dialogue.
1.10 pm: Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday appealed to the people in Darjeeling to remain peaceful. “In a democracy like India resorting to violence would never help in finding a solution. Every issue can be resolved through mutual dialogue,” he was quoted as saying by ANI. Singh also added that he had spoken to Mamata Banerjee this morning.
12.20 pm: Reacting to GJM’s decision on reviving GLP, GJM’s “peacekeeping” wing, West Bengal Tourism Minister Gautam Deb said: “We all know that GJM is a separatist force. So it is expected that they well set up a militant organisation. But we will not allow such separatist forces to grow.”
12.10 pm: Darjeeling MLA Amar Singh Rai has criticised the West Bengal government saying the situation could have been prevented from “spiralling out of control” by the state government, reported NDTV. Rai has reiterated GJM’s stand saying it would hold talks only with Centre on the Gorkhaland issue. Police had picked up Rai’s son, Vikram Rai, around Friday midnight. Vikram, a former journalist, was released after questioning. Sources told The Indian Express that he had been detained in connection with June 8 clashes.
11.55 am: While PTI reported the police had declined the permission to hold such a rally, NDTV reported a little while ago that the ‘silent protest’ has now been allowed by the police.
11.45 am: Sunday’s rally is happening amid increased police security in the region. After Saturday’s violent clashes, police have been on high alert with pickets and barricades in front of the government and GTA offices. Several entry-exit points of the hills have also been barricaded. Police has also been conducting route marches with Army in several parts of the hills.
11.40 am: Earlier on Sunday, a senior GJM leader said: “We will conduct the rally at Chowk bazar with the bodies.” However, police has declined the permission to hold such a rally.
11.20 am: The march has started from Darjeeling’s famous Chowk Bazaar. While protesters can be seen carrying placards saying ‘We want Gorkhaland’, there is no presence of GJM flags or sloganeering, as per NDTV visuals.
11.15 am: On Saturday, Rajnath Singh said the Centre would send more forces “if required” to Darjeeling. “Central security forces were sent to Darjeeling and are already deployed and the Centre would send more if required,” Rajnath was quoted as saying by The Telegraph. Mamata Banerjee-led government had written to the Centre on Saturday seeking more forces to tackle the current unrest in Darjeeling.
11.00 am: The state government recently made Bengali a mandatory language in the schools of the region triggering the current cycle of violence. “The government suddenly imposes Bengali on us, making it mandatory in schools. What about our mother tongue, Nepali? We have asked the state government to clear its position on the language issue,” Roshan Giri, general secretary of GJM, told The Sunday Express.
10.45 am: Round-up: Darjeeling has witnessed violent clashes since June 8 as GJM activists and supporters demand a separate state of Gorkhaland. At least 3 people were killed and 35 security personnel were injured in Saturday’s clashes, including an India Reserve Battalion (IRB) officer.
10.37 am: The idea of GLP was first proposed by Gurung during the 2008 Gorkhaland agitation. GJM now plans to raise an 8000-strong force in Darjeeling which will be prepared to tackle “any kind of situation”.
10.32 am: GJM also plans to revive its “peacekeeping” wing — Gorkhaland Personnel(GLP). “The situation is getting worse with each passing day. We feel that a head-on collision is just a matter of time. So we need to prepare ourselves to counter the state government democratically,” GJM central committee member and former in-charge of GLP Colonel (retd) Ramesh Alley told PTI.
10.30 am: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung on Sunday criticised CM Mamata Banerjee for alleging the current Gorkhaland agitation was being supported by insurgents. “The allegations are baseless, Mamata Banerjee is trying to mislead people. It is not a political fight but a fight for our own identity. We will not stop until and unless Gorkhaland is achieved. The struggle will intensify in the hills,” Gurung said in an audio-visual statement. Also read | Bimal Gurung, the undisputed mass leader of the Gorkhas. Click here.
10.20 am: GJM chief Bimal Gurung recorded a message in Nepali from an undisclosed location. He alleged, “Peaceful and democratic rallies were taken out by the (GJM) women’s morcha. The Bengal government, autocratic government, fired on us. I ask the people of Hills to protest.”
10. 10 am: While Mamata Banerjee extended an offer to hold peaceful talks, GJM has rejected the offer. “We don’t want to talk to Mamata Banerjee. We want to sit with the central government. Banerjee has said that we have links with N-E terrorist organisations. Now she says she is ready for talks. From her point of view, we are terrorists, so the CM has no right to talk to terrorists,” GJM assistant general secretary, Binoy Tamang, said. Home Minister Rajnath Singh had earlier discussed the issue with CM Mamata Banerjee to take stock of the situation.
9.55 am: GJM chief Bimal Gurung has asked supporters to defy the curfew and gather at the Chowk Bazaar at 10 am on Sunday. Gurung has also asked protesters to wear black badges as a mark of protest, reported NDTV.
9.50 am: Condemning the violence, CM Banerjee had said the protests were a conspiracy. “What is happening today is a deep-rooted conspiracy. So many bombs and arms cannot be gathered in a day,” she said. “I am ready to sacrifice my life, but I will not allow Bengal to be divided.”