Darjeeling unrest: Centre puts onus on Mamata for talks with Gorkha protesters | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Darjeeling unrest: Centre puts onus on Mamata for talks with Gorkha protesters

The hill districts of West Bengal were relatively calm on Sunday, a day after violent clashes between police and supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) left four people dead.

india Updated: Jun 19, 2017 07:08 IST
Kumar Uttam & Pramod Giri
Indian police stand guard next to shuttered stores in Darjeeling on June 18, 2017, following a day of clashes with supporters of the separatist Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) group.
Indian police stand guard next to shuttered stores in Darjeeling on June 18, 2017, following a day of clashes with supporters of the separatist Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) group.(AFP Photo)

The Centre on Sunday appealed for calm in Darjeeling but put the onus on the Mamata Banerjee government for possible tripartite talks with Gorkha protesters demanding a separate state.

“All concerned parties and stakeholders should resolve their differences and misunderstandings through dialogue in amicable environment,” Union home minister Rajnath Singh tweeted, a day after violent clashes between police and supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) left four people dead.

One India Reserve Battalion officer was also stabbed in the clashes which also left 35 other security personnel injured.

Sources said Singh spoke to Banerjee on Sunday morning, for the third time in as many days, to explore if she was open to examine the separate state demand. Banerjee has ruled out bifurcation of Bengal.

The current agitation started off as protests against an alleged move by the Trinamool government to impose Bengali in schools in the hills where most people speak Nepali.

The GJM, which administers the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, revived the 110-year-old demand for a separate state after a police raid on the office of its chief Bimal Gurung.

The GJM, an ally of the BJP, has refused to talk to the state government and insisted on tripartite negotiations on statehood.

“The initiative to examine the statehood demand has to come from the state government,” a senior home ministry official told HT. “We have limited role to play.”

BJP parliamentarian from Darjeeling SS Ahluwalia, also a Union minister, wrote to the home minister last week demanding a committee to examine the long-pending demands of Gorkhas, Adivasis and others.

The crisis has deepened the BJP’s dilemma, torn between pressure from its ally and its own aspiration to increase foothold in West Bengal. The BJP’s state unit feels it can not sacrifice the party’s interest in 41 Lok Sabha seats to serve the purpose of just Darjeeling.

The Trinamool faced the first political fallout of the agitation when one of its leaders, Gaulan Lepcha, resigned from the party in support of a separate state.

Lepcha, a three-time former MLA of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), had joined Trinamool just a couple of months before the creation of a separate Kalimpong district in February 2016.

The state government cut off the internet in the hills on Saturday night, apparently to stop sharing of protest videos through social media and messaging apps.

Officials said a police vehicle in Kalimpong was set on fire by GJM activists on Sunday while an attempt to burn a government library was foiled as fire service personnel doused the flames.

The GJM took out a rally with the body of one of its activists who was killed in police firing on Saturday.

There was mixed response to a 12-hour shutdown called by GJM in the plains of the Dooars in protest against the police firing.

GJM and other pro-Gorkhaland activists also staged rallies at Kalimpong and Mirik.