Meet Darjeeling’s stone pelters who say soldiers have special place in Gorkha heart

Since clashes broke out on June 8, protesters have rained stones on police and paramilitary forces.

india Updated: Jun 19, 2017 16:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Darjeeling
Darjeeling,Darjeeling crisis,Protesters
Stone pelters in Darjeeling.(HT Photo)

The Gorkhaland protests have pushed Darjeeling to the brink of collapse, with widespread violence erupting in the picturesque hill station for the first time in almost three decades.

But apart from the usual arms and clashes, the security forces are battling a new adversary: A mob of stone pelters who are allegedly backed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) that is helming the movement for a new state.

Stone pelters are back in the north Bengal hills after 30 years.

“We want Gorkhaland. We want a separate state. It is a fight for our own identity and future. It is my right and I will have it,” said Pranab, a Class 12 student.

He is one of thousands of youths who have come out in open support for Gorkhaland and have challenged the security forces when they were lathi-charged.

But many of the youth say they have stayed away from hurling stones at the army, as defence forces have a special place in their heart. “You will not find a single family in the hills which doesn’t have either a serving or a retired army personnel,” a 20-year-old youth said.

Most of stone pelters are educated and come from good families. Since June 8, when the clashes first broke out, the protesters have rained stones on police and paramilitary forces, who had to retreat on some occasions.

“A total of 36 police personnel were injured in the clashes on June 17, and many of them by the stones thrown by GJM agitators,” said Siddhinath Gupta, additional director general of police.

Over the past week, at least three people have died and scores injured in Darjeeling as thousands-strong mobs have clashed with police, torched vehicles and ransacked property to push for a separate Gorkhaland state.

Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has ruled out talks and alleged that the GJM nurture terrorists and smuggle arms to fuel unrest. She even pointed at stone pelters. “The agitators have been raining bombs and stones on the police for hours at a stretch,” Banerjee told reporters in Kolkata on Saturday.

But some of the stone pelters seem determined. “Stones are the easiest way to attack the police. These are free, available just about everywhere in the hills and most come in sizes that fit our fingers perfectly,” said Subir Rai, a youth from Birch Hill area.

(with PTI inputs)

First Published: Jun 19, 2017 12:06 IST