West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said the bandh called by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in Darjeeling was illegal, and added that her government would take action against those who participated in it, said a report in the The Indian Express. “The government has compromised a lot and the people of hills have endured a lot,” she said. “The bandh is illegal and we will take legal action against those who took part in it.”
She added that the government “will not compromise with those who put the lives of tourists in danger by organising violent protests”. “Nobody is above the law,” Banerjee said after holding an emergency meeting at Richmond Hill in Darjeeling.
On Thursday, violent protests had begun in Darjeeling against what participants said was the forced imposition of the Bengali language. An indefinite strike called by the GJM began soon after. The West Bengal government on Friday called in armed forces in Darjeeling to quell the agitation. The protestors set police vehicles and a government bus on fire and clashed with security personnel.
Both GJM leaders and police officers were injured in Thursday’s clashes. However, the administration has not yet confirmed the total number of people injured. Local channels have been asked to go off air until further notice. The protests took place despite Banerjee exempting the schools in the hill district from the proposal to make Bengali compulsory.
On Friday, the CM asserted that she would not leave Darjeeling until the situation became normal. Banerjee was seen walking on the streets in Darjeeling on Friday morning and asking shop owners who had shut their establishments to reopen them.
The state government has started government bus services at two-hour intervals from Siliguri and Bagdogra to Darjeeling to bring back the stranded tourists. The state government has also set up helpdesks and helpline numbers for tourists. More than 10,000 tourists are believed to be stranded because of the bandh.
After holding the emergency meeting, Banerjee also announced compensation for the policemen injured in Thursday’s clashes. The state government has also issued a circular warning that salaries will be deducted for a day for a government official who fails to turn up for duty in Darjeeling.
But a fresh agitation has begun in the Darjeeling hills after GJM supporters torched an under-construction ITI building at Mungpoo. Under pressure from the Mamata government, the GJM leadership has decided to hold a central committee meeting of the party on Saturday in Darjeeling.