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GJM forces schools in Darjeeling hills to close for two days to protest inclusion of Bengali in curriculum

GJM chief Bimal Gurung has also urged the hill people to take out protest rallies between June 4 and 8 when chief minister Mamata Banerjee will be in the hills to hold the first state cabinet meeting there.

kolkata Updated: Jun 02, 2017 14:04 IST
GJM president Bimal Gurung has vowed to resist the plan of the chief minister to teach Bengali to school students mandatorily.(HT Photo)

The Darjeeling hills of north Bengal can again turn restive following the resolve of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), the principal force in the hills, to resist chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s diktat of compulsory teaching of Bengali in all schools of the state. GJM forced about 1,000 schools and colleges in the hills to close on Thursday and Friday to protest the inclusion of Bengali, and has vowed to oppose it.

Darjeeling hills has 770 primary schools, 130 high schools, almost 50 ICSE schools and about 10 colleges which remained closed for the second day on Friday.

Read: Bengal civic polls: TMC wins four civic bodies, GJM-BJP alliance bags three

According to the current curriculum, a student in a hill school can pass out without studying Bengali at all. Most students in Darjeeling schools study English, Nepali and Hindi. They have to take a first language and a second language along with a third language till class 8.

GJM leaders have also urged locals to take out rallies from June 4 till June 8 when the chief minister Mamata Banerjee would be addressing meetings and holding the first state cabinet meeting. GJM president Bimal Gurung announced that he would hit the roads to lead the rallies in Darjeeling to protest against the state government’s decision to ‘impose’ Bengali.

Darjeeling has witnessed violent movements in different phases since the eighties demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland. (HT Photo)

Darjeeling Police have initiated a suo moto case against key GJM leaders including Bimal Gurung along with representatives of education institutions and organisations who were present in a May 30 meeting in Darjeeling convened by GJM on May 30. The decision to close schools and plant black flags was taken at this meeting where several representatives of several social and literary organisations and personalities went.

Interestingly, the chief minister’s move has allowed GJM to rally the hill people just after Trinamool Congress got control of a civic board there (Mirik) for the first time.

The FIR names GJM leaders such as Roshan Giri, Binoy Tamang, Ramesh Allay, Swaraj Thapa and P Arjun along with Prem Pradhan of Nepali Sahitya Sammelan, Jiwan Namdung a member of Nepali Sahitya Academy, Pemba Bomzan the President of Gorkha Dukha Niwarak Sammelan (GDNS); Rev Joy Haldar of St Paul’s School; Father Peter Lingdam of St Robert’s School; Pravat Mukhia of St Joseph’s College; Derrick Pradhan of Vidya Vikash Academy and others.

They have been charged under sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 153 A(b) (committing any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups); 505 (statements conducting to public mischief ) of the IPC.

Read: New political equation unfolds in Darjeeling hills, TMC-GNLF forge poll alliance against GJM’s might

Incidentally, in the recent civic body polls, GJM appealed to the Gorkha identity and said it was a Gorkhaland-vs-Bengal question. GJM leaders are now saying that forcing Bengali down their throats only proves the bull dozing that parties from the planes are indulging.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has insisted that students studying in any school in Bengal has to study Bengali mandatorily till class 10. (HT Photo)

The GJM has termed the administration’s move as an attempt to suppress the democratic voices. “But we will not bow down,” said Binoy Tamang the assistant secretary of the GJM.

On Wednesday the district administration officials said there is no intension to impose any language on anybody in the hills. There is no notification or circular of the state government as of now to this effect, said the Darjeeling district magistrate.

In Kolkata, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that there is no harm in Nepali-speaking people studying Bengali in schools. “If I can speak Nepali, what is the harm if Nepali speaks Hindi or Bengali,” she said in a meeting with the representatives of private schools in the city.

Read: Exclusive park for mountain bikers in Darjeeling

It was on May 16 the Bengal government declared Bengali as a mandatory subject for all students till Class 10 in all schools in the state irrespective of their board affiliations.

Incidentally, Nepali is the official language in the hills of Bengal. In 1961 Nepali was recognized as an official language of West Bengal, and in 1992, Nepali was recognized as one of the official Languages of India under the 8th Scheduled of Indian Constitution.

To old citizens of the hills, GJM’s opposition of the state government’s decision is reminiscent of the 1961 movement when the locals resisted the state’s decision to make Bengali compulsory in the hills. Faced with stiff resistance, the B C Roy government had to withdraw its decision.

First Published: Jun 02, 2017 14:04 IST