Hill parties to discuss collective leadership of the Gorkhaland movement

Security forces patrol the streets and an internet ban remains in effect in Darjeeling, where the movement for Gorkhaland is gaining steam.

india Updated: Jun 20, 2017 18:53 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Darjeeling
GJM supporters in Darjeeling burn an effigy of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday.(PTI)

An all-party meeting convened by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) at Darjeeling on Tuesday afternoon could determine the future of the movement for Gorkhaland. Seven hill parties are likely to appoint a collective leadership.

The Jan Andolan Party (JAP), headed by Harka Bahadur Chhetri, skipped an all-party meeting last week, but said that it will participate this time around. Though it supports the cause of Gorkhaland, the JAP has opposed GJM’s tactics.

Other parties to attend Tuesday’s meeting include the Gorkha National Liberation Front, Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists, Gorkhaland Rajya Nirman Morcha, Bhartiya Janata Party, and Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh.

DK Pradhan, a senior GJM leader and the chairman of the Darjeeling Municipality, told HT that the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League, the oldest extant Gorkha political party, might also attend.

It was not clear at the time of publication whether GJM president Bimal Gurung would attend the meeting. He has remained incommunicado since Thursday, when his office and residence were raided by the police.

Thousands of Gorkhaland supporters, irrespective of party affiliation, are hitting the streets every day to rally in support of a separate state for the Gorkhas. On Monday, people burned effigies of chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, and even Mirik, where Trinamool defeated the GJM for its first electoral victory in the hills on May 14.

It is the sixth day of the indefinite bandh called by the GJM. Unrest in the hills originally began as a response to the announcement that the instruction of Bangla would be mandatory in all schools from Class I.

The goals of the protest have multiplied. In addition to calling for the establishment of Gorkhaland as a separate state, protesters are also drawing attention to alleged police atrocities. On Saturday, the GJM said that three of its supporters had been killed by the police.

Paramilitary and army personnel have been deployed in large numbers around Darjeeling. Internet services in the region have been suspended since Sunday.

The raid on the GJM office last Thursday and the police firing on Saturday have added urgency to the Gorkhaland movement, which had otherwise run out of steam in recent years.

First Published: Jun 20, 2017 11:07 IST