The police on Sunday night arrested five Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters for their alleged role in Thursday’s violence in Darjeeling as the party prepared to launch an indefinite strike from Monday seeking a separate state of Gorkhaland. Assistant Public Prosecutor Pankaj Prasad confirmed the arrests, and said the protestors were booked for unlawful assembly, creating mischief, assault and using criminal force on officers and obstructing them from discharging duties, reported The Telegraph.
Meanwhile, GJM chief Bimal Gurung asked the tourists to leave the hills or stay back at their own risk as “anything might happen”. “The situation is turning worse, and anything can happen,” he said, according to The Times of India. “The tourists must understand this. If they wish to stay back, they may do so at their own risk. I appeal to them [tourists] to leave.”
The agitation started as a protest against the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision to make Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools, despite the chief minister’s assurance that the new rule would not be imposed in the hill districts. However, the movement soon turned into the revival of the demand for a separate state.
“We will go on strike from Monday,” Gurun told ANI. “[The] Bengal government takes so much revenue from us, but it only encroaches our territory. We want our Gorkhaland and will not negotiate on this matter. We will not be violent.”
GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri said they would hold an all-party meeting on June 13 to discuss the matter. “Offices of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, Bengal government and Central Government will be closed from Monday,” said Giri. “Courts will be open. Banks will be open on Monday and Thursday. School and colleges have been exempted from the bandh. We appealed to put all sign boards in Darjeeling, Kerseong, Kalimpong, Mirik and other places in Nepali and English.”
He said the party had already written to Home Minister Rajnath Singh about “how West Bengal suppresses us”. They also plan to reach out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about “all the atrocities”. “The state government is doing [this] to suppress Gorkhaland for her [Banerjee’s] own political interest,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday held Banerjee’s “meaningless politics” responsible for the unrest in the hills. “Nothing happened for seven years,” said BJP leader Rahul Sinha. “Now with Mamata Banerjee forcing Bengali language on the people, the situation has turned bad. She should end her interference and apologise to the people of West Bengal.”
State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said, “The government is not interested in solving problems. All this meaningless violence is hampering the life of a common man. This is all intentional.”
Mamata Banerjee has been one of the prominent Opposition voices against Narendra Modi and his policies for some time now. She was the first opposition leader to speak out against the Centre’s demonitisation drive when it was launched in November 2016. She has also strongly resisted against the central move against sale and consumption of beef across the country. Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress Party has been critical about the Goods and Services Tax as well.