Gorkhaland demand, GJM protests: What we know about the Darjeeling crisis so far

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has said it will hold a protest with the bodies of those killed in clashes on Sunday.

india Updated: Jun 18, 2017 12:54 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Darjeeling,Darjeeling news,GJM
Soldiers patrol next to remains of bricks thrown by supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) group after clashes in Darjeeling.(AFP Photo)

Amidst a political crisis, shutdown continued in Darjeeling for the fourth day on Sunday as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leadership called to hold a protest rally.

The fight for control between the GJM, which is an ally of BJP, and the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government, has turned the popular hill station into a battleground.

Here are 10 points about the crisis:

• GJM supporters hurled petrol bombs, stones and bottles at the police on Saturday and the security forces retaliated with teargas shells, resorting to baton-charge to disperse the mobs. The army was deployed to control the situation as GJM held flag marches in several areas of the district.

• The present crisis in Darjeeling was sparked by fears of Bengali being imposed in schools in the GJM-administered areas where a majority of the people are Nepali-speaking Gorkhas. (Nepali is the official language in the hills of Bengal, recognised as an official language of Bengal in 1961. In 1992, Nepali was recognised as one of the official languages of India.)

Though the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government clarified that Bengali will be an optional subject, the GJM refused to back down.

• GJM then revived an almost 100-year-old demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. Its chief Bimal Gurung, from an undisclosed location, asked supporters to fight a final battle.

• Experts see the agitation as the GJM’s efforts to revive its political fortunes after the ruling Trinamool Congress made history by registering its first victory in a hill municipality in Mirik.

• Having signed a tripartite agreement with the Centre and the state, and settled for an autonomous administrative council instead of full-fledged statehood, Gurung was just months ago faced with the possibility of losing both the plot and personal popularity. The latest controversy, however, has given him a fresh lifeline.

• On June 11-12, GJM supporters allegedly set fire to government offices in Bijanbari and Darjeeling. On June 15, police raided GJM office in Patlebas, about five km from Darjeeling, seizing weapons such as bows and arrows, axe, scythes and cash. The raid fanned further anger. GJM said at least four of its men were killed in police action, a claim denied by the forces and the government. A police officer was reported to be in critical condition while several others are injured.

• The GJM has ruled out any possibility of talks with the Trinamool Congress government, saying it will only negotiate with the Centre. The BJP is an ally of the GJM.

An injured cop is helped by colleagues during clashes with supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) group in Darjeeling. (AFP Photo)

• Ahead of the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had, in a bid to win Darjeeling seat, promised to create a separate Gorkhaland. Its SS Ahluwalia won the seat in 2014 and is the current representative of the constituency.

• Mamata offered to hold a dialogue if the GJM called off the shutdown, that has paralysed the region’s money-spinner tourism industry. She also accused the GJM of having links with militant outfits based in in north-eastern states and neighbouring countries.

• “So many bombs and arms cannot be gathered in a day... These have been gathered for a long time. From where are they (GJM) getting their support? Their advantage is it (Darjeeling) is a hill area and there are borders with other states and international borders,” she said.

• Tourism industry has taken a hit as hundreds of visitors have left the hills and thousands have been asked to leave Darjeeling and surrounding areas. Police and paramilitary forces are escorting them to safer zones.

First Published: Jun 18, 2017 12:38 IST