The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on Sunday demanded that security forces be withdrawn from the Darjeeling hills and that the Narendra Modi government should hold tripartite talks to ensure normalcy in the region, reported The Indian Express. The GJM had earlier claimed that three of its members were killed in police firing on Saturday, which was vehemently denied by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Speaking at a press conference, Darjeeling MLA Amar Singh Rai said the GJM is unhappy with the Centre, even as Home Minister Rajnath Singh held talks with Banerjee on the unrest in the region. Asserting that the GJM did not want to be “pawns” in Centre-state politics and that his party would not talk to Mamata Banerjee, Rai reminded the Central government that the GJM was an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and that it had contributed two MPs to the National Democratic Alliance. Rai pointed out that the BJP had in its manifesto said it would “sympathetically” consider the demand for Gorkhaland, and BJP leaders had expressed support for the cause during the 2014 elections.
Rai also tore into Mamata Banerjee for claiming that GJM cadres were not killed in police firing. “The CM stated that police firing did not kill our people. Then who killed them? Why would we murder our people?”
GJM cadres had staged a rally carrying the bodies of two party members, who they alleged were killed in police firing on Saturday, reported PTI. Carrying bodies of the two supporters in a hearse with GJM flags, the Indian tricolour and posters calling the deceased “martyrs of Gorkhaland”, thousands of locals, including GJM activists, shouted slogans like “police, go back”.
A public library, two panchayat offices and a police vehicle were set ablaze at Kalimpong on Sunday. The GJM, however, denied its involvement in the incidents and claimed it was the handiwork of the Trinamool Congress.
Earlier, Mamata Banerjee had alleged that there was a “terrorist brain” behind the hooliganism and vandalism in Darjeeling. “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. She also called GJM leader Bimal Gurung a “corrupt leader” and urged locals not to pay heed to what he said.
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.