Gorkhaland unrest: Demand for separate state escalates as GJM gives 10-day deadline to Centre, issue raised in Rajya Sabha

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which has been spearheading the ongoing strike in Darjeeling to press for a separate Gorkhaland state, has now given the Centre a 10-day deadline to address the issue, failing which, the party will aggravate the protests in Darjeeling. The latest development emerged on Monday even as daily life remains stunted in Darjeeling due to the indefinite strike in the hilly region of West Bengal.

According to the Times of India, GJM activists claimed that the Centre was acting like a "silent spectator" and there was a need to intensify agitations to ensure government intervention. The report adds that protests are likely to intensify in Terai and Dooars regions after this development.

Earlier on Sunday, pro-Gorkhaland activists had clashed with the police near the Bhutan border in Alipurduar district in West Bengal.

 Gorkhaland unrest: Demand for separate state escalates as GJM gives 10-day deadline to Centre, issue raised in Rajya Sabha

File image of a protester during the unrest in Darjeeling. PTI

The GJM leadership claims that the clash occurred after protesters were stopped from carrying out a rally in Jaigaon during the 'global rally for Gorkhaland'. "We will not be oppressed by the administration anymore. The Gorkhas all over the world are with us," GJM assistant general secretary Binay Tamang told IANS.

He added that rallies were being held in England, various parts of Europe, Australia, Thailand and in major cities across India.

The Times of India report claims that the agitators had not taken prior permission to hold the rally, which caused the escalation. However, Tamang claims that the police mistreated the protesters in the rally. Six police personnel and several activists were injured in the clashes.

The hills have witnessed numerous instances of protests taking a turn for the worse, with clashes erupting last week in Sukna. According to the Hindustan Times, one GJM supporter and three policemen were injured in this incident.

This culmination of unrest featured in the Rajya Sabha as well on Monday, with a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) member asking the government to hold talks with the protesters to restore normalcy in the affected areas. "You may or may not accept their demand...please invite the agitators and have a talk so that normalcy can be restored," Majeed Memon said during Zero Hour in the Upper House.

Memon said the call for a separate Gorkhaland state has taken a violent turn. He added that the shutdown, which has been going on for more than seven weeks, has caused a severe shortage of essential commodities like food and water (in affected areas). "It's felt that the agitation that is going on for whatever demand, may be justified or may not be justified...the ruling party in West Bengal probably is not in good terms with the Centre and it is because of the hostility between the two, the Centre and the state...the people are sandwiched, they are suffering," he added.

The debate also highlighted that because of the prolonged agitations, Darjeeling tea has not come to the markets for auction for the first time in 150 years.

Another political development around the unrest took place last week when the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir told the Parliament that there was no proposal to form any committee to look into the demand for a separate state for the Gorkhas. "There is no proposal to appoint a committee to look into the merits and demerits of the demands of the Gorkhas, adivasis and others," he said during the discussion.

To this statement, a senior Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leader had told PTI last week, "The BJP is making fun of us with such statements. This is an indication that they are not giving importance to our demand. If they think that they can get away with making only false promises to us during elections for the sake of votes, they are wrong. The people of the hills will give them a befitting reply."

Monday marks the 49th day of the indefinite shutdown, which was called by GJM on 12 June, the longest agitation so far in the hill station which had witnessed a 40-day bandh in 1988 by GNLF and a 44-day shutdown in 2013 by GJM on the issue.

The shutdown has caused major issues for the citizens of the town. Except for medical shops, all business establishments, restaurants, hotels, schools and colleges have remained closed since the shutdown began. With food supply severely hit due to the indefinite shutdown, the GJM and various NGOs of the hills have been distributing food items among people.

The indefinite shutdown has also lead to a ban on internet services, which was imposed on 18 June and has already been extended by the district administration till 4 August. Police and security forces have been patrolling the streets of the hills and kept a tight vigil at all entry and exit routes.

Updated Date: Aug 01, 2017 07:35:32 IST