Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday called for peace in northern West Bengal — where an indefinite strike called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) in demand of a separate state of Gorkhaland continued for the eighth day — as she left for the Netherlands to attend a United Nations meet.
"We appeal to everybody to maintain harmony," Banerjee said before taking off for the three-day visit.
By 'everybody', the chief minister covered the many political factions that are now involved in the unrest other than the GJM which has been the only one extensively reported on by the media.
Problems for the Trinamool Congress government deepened after its ally Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) decided last week in an all-party meeting to join other parties in the Darjeeling hills and adopt a unanimous resolution for the creation of Gorkhaland.
GNLF spokesperson Niraj Zimba told News18, “For us, the issue of Gorkhaland is our first priority. We have an alliance with the TMC but it is a political meeting and not an ideological alliance.”
GNLF has been nvolved in this issue for decades. In the mid 1980s, the party, under Subhash Ghising, had led a violent movement for Gorkhaland, taking to the streets to voice their demands. The Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) was formed in 1988, under which limited powers were given to Ghisingh’s GNLF.
Zimba told the media last week that they are coming together with their "worst enemy" because the people of the area demand the union of all parties.
“It is the demand of the people and this is the right time. We will fight together for a separate state. For this goal, we have joined hands with the GJM who are our worst enemy in the Hills,” Zimbo said.
In the GJM-sponsored all-party meeting last week, several other parties in the hills agreed to show up to get together and discuss the future course of action against the state government’s imposition of Bangla language and the demand for statehood.
The Gorkha Rashtriya Nirman Morcha, Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists, Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh were some of those present at the meeting, The Indian Express reported.
Two other parties, All India Gorkha League (AIGL) and Jan Andolan Party (JAP), could not make to to the meeting but extended support to the cause.
PTI reported that GJM claimed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) district leadership too attended the meeting. But BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said, “We are not aware of any of our leaders attending any kind of all-party meet in Darjeeling.”
On Sunday, the GJM slammed the Narendra Modi government, expressing disappointment over the centre's role in the situation, PTI reported. The GJM, an ally of the BJP, also questioned why the BJP MP from Darjeeling, SS Ahluwalia, has not visited the place once since the unrest began.
The demand for the Darjeeling hills to be separated from Bengal began in the first quarter of the last century. Through the decades after, several parties formed to take the movement forward. One such party which is still formidable in the region is the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL), which entered the movement right after independence in 1947. Consisting of mostly Nepali speaking party workers, ABGL has a significant following in the region.
Another all-party meeting will be held on 20 June, for which GJM chief Bimal Gurung is expected to meet ex-servicemen and discuss the way forward.
The funeral of three protesters killed in Saturday's violence will take place on Monday. On Saturday, Gorkha protesters held a silent march carrying the bodies through the streets. The march had been called by Gurung, who is spearheading the protests, but was attended by members of all parties in the region.
Security forces were on high alert and internet services remained suspended, though no incidents of violence were reported in Darjeeling hills on Monday.
Given that almost all political factions in the region have come above their differences and have gotten together to advance the cause for a separate Gorkhaland, Mamata Banerjee has more to deal with than just appeasing the frontline GJM.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jun 19, 2017 14:00 PM