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Two Sikkim Trinamool Congress leaders resign in support of Gorkhaland

The resignations could hurt Bengal’s Trinamool government which is battling to contain growing anger in the hills.

india Updated: Jun 19, 2017 18:11 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Gorkhaland,Sikkim,TMC party
Supporters of the separatist Gorkha Janmukti Morcha group take part in a rally in Darjeeling on Sunday.(AFP File)

Two top Trinamool Congress leaders of Sikkim quit the party on Monday to protest alleged police atrocities on protesters leading a statehood agitation in West Bengal’s hill districts, including the popular tourist destination of Darjeeling.

Trinamool’s Sikkim unit president PT Lucksom, also a former deputy chief minister, and state general secretary Tshering Wangchuk Lepcha sent their resignations to party Rajya Sabha MP Derek O Brien and Lok Sabha MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay, sources said.

Their resignation letters were sent via the instant messaging app WhatsApp.

Four protesters have been killed, three of them allegedly in police firing, since unrest begun on June 8 over an alleged attempt to impose Bengali in schools of the hills. Several security personnel have also been injured in clashes with protesters.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which rules the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, later revived the 110-year-old demand for a separate state.

Sikkim, a small state bordering Nepal and Bhutan, has a sizeable Nepali-speaking population ethnically related to Darjeeling’s majority community.

“On June 17, three innocent persons were killed. Darjeeling is not a place where you can kill people. We fully support the demand for Gorkhaland,” Lepcha said in his resignation letter.

“The Sikkim unit of Trinamool Congress has been watching the situation in north Bengal hills since June 8. What the Bengal government has done there is unwarranted,” he told HT.

The resignations could hurt Bengal’s Trinamool government which is battling to contain growing anger in the hills, where a shutdown completed five days on Monday.

On Sunday, one of its leaders in Darjeeling, Gaulan Lepcha, resigned from the party in support of a separate state. Lepcha is a three-time former MLA of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), which had spearheaded a violent statehood movement in the eighties.

NK Kumai, former chairman of the Kalimpong municipality, also resigned from the Trinamool during the weekend.

Trinamool’s Darjeeling president and state tourism minister Gautam Deb alleged that a number of their supporters were compelled to leave the hills and take refuge in Siliguri after GJM supporters threatened them.

On Monday, the hills were relatively calm with GJM supporters staging rallies at Mirik, Kalimppong and Darjeeling.

Effigies of chief minister Mamata Banerjee were burned in Darjeeling and Mirik.

In 1996, two CPM MPs had also resigned from the party, “disillusioned” with the party not supporting the Gorkhaland issue.

Dawa Lama and RB Rai had lured most of the CPM members out of the party to form the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) in the hills.

CPRM representatives were present at an all-party meeting in Darjeeling on June 13 that adopted a resolution to fight for Gorkhaland.

Rai was the Lok Sabha MP from Darjeeling (1996-98). Lama was a member of Rajya Sabha.

First Published: Jun 19, 2017 18:10 IST