Members of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on Sunday staged a silent rally in protest against the deaths of three of the group’s supporters during the ongoing unrest in Darjeeling. The GJM had alleged that three deaths were caused after the police opened fire on the protestors on Saturday.

“We will continue our movement. If the police try to stop us, it will create trouble,” GJM chief Bimal Gurung said. He also refuted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s claims that the group was conspiring with insurgent groups in the North East to incite violence in Darjeeling. Banerjee also urged the Centre to extend support to her government in Kolkata and to avoid encouraging the GJM.

Moreover, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday appealed to residents of the tourist town against resorting to violence. “In a democracy like India, resorting to violence would never help in finding a solution,” Singh said. “Every issue can be resolved through mutual dialogue.” The home minister added that Banerjee had briefed him about the current situation in Darjeeling.

Earlier, the cheif minister had alleged that there was a “terrorist brain” behind the hooliganism and vandalism in Darjeeling, according to PTI. “Only a terrorist, and not a common man, can do this. They [the GJM] have connections with insurgent groups of the North East.”

Banerjee further accused the Gorkha body of receiving help from across “international borders”, without elaborating on her comment. “What is happening today is a deep-rooted conspiracy. So many bombs cannot be gathered in a day. These have been gathered for a long time,” she said.

The West Bengal chief minister also called GJM leader Bimal Gurung a “corrupt leader” and urged residents of the tourist town to not pay heed to what he had to say. Banerjee also urged them to lift the indefinite strike called in Darjeeling and directed West Bengal Home Secretary Moloy De to hold an all-party meeting on June 22 in Siliguri, The Times of India reported.

Casualties reported

There are varying figures on the number of casualties reported in the Darjeeling violence. The GJM on Saturday claimed three of its supporters were killed in police firing, but Banerjee has rejected this allegation. The police said they had received information on only one death.

Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Anuj Sharma said officers had not opened fired at the protestors. “It was the GJM supporters who had started violence and attacked police with stones and petrol bombs,” he told DNA. “They had opened fire. They set our vehicles ablaze. We are investigating the matter.”

GJM leader Binay Tamang said some of their party members had even gone missing. “Banerjee has said we have links with North East 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,” The Indian Express reported.

The police further said that as many as 36 security personnel were injured in the clashed, DNA reported. Kiran Tamang, an Indian Reserve Battalion officer, was left seriously injured after he was stabbed in the back with a “khukhri” – a traditional Gorkha knife, Hindustan Times reported. He is said to be in critical condition.

The unrest

Violence broke out in Darjeeling after Banerjee announced her decision to make Bengali compulsory in state-run schools. Though she had said that hill districts will be exempted from the rule, the GJM began an agitation that soon turned into a revival of the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

While the shutdown in Darjeeling entered its fourth day on Sunday, the Centre on Friday had decided to hold back the additional forces it was sending to the hill district. The government had said that it would send 400 additional paramilitary personnel only after the state submits a report on the situation.

Protestors on Friday had vandalised government vehicles on NH10 and set a medical unit on fire. They had also torched a customer care centre of the West Bengal State Electricity Development Corporation Ltd. Frequent patrols were conducted by the Army in sensitive areas to prevent untoward incidents.