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3 Jun 2017

GJM warns of language showdown in peak tourist season

Deep Gazmer | TNN | Jun 3, 2017, DARJEELING: A simmering discontent brewing in the Hills over the Mamata Banerjee government's decision to make Bengali compulsory in schools threatens to erupt in peak tourist season.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung iterated on Friday he would go ahead with rallies in the Hills from June 4 to 8 to protest the forceful imposition. The Bengal chief minister will be in Mirik on June 5 and hold a cabinet meeting at Darjeeling Raj Bhavan on June 8.
Raising the pitch, Gurung also warned of unrest if the state government went ahead with its language plan and the district police attempted to foil protest rallies. "I reiterate that we are not against Bengali language or community. We are only against forceful imposition. We also know that the state government will use every means to thwart our protest rallies. We will not be held responsible if trouble erupts," he said.
Joyoshi Dasgupta, the Darjeeling district magistrate, however, said: "There are certain rumours circulating in this district and elsewhere that a fear is being stoked up about imposition of Bengali language and replacing Nepali language. On behalf of the state government, I would like to clarify that there is no such intention to impose any kind of language on any people in the Hills. The state government has clarified that no language will be imposed or Nepali replaced. There is no notification or circular in this regard."
That, however, didn't stop Gurung from attending a Friday meeting with leaders of the party's frontal organizations, students and youth wings, GTA sabhasads and study forums to chalk out agitation strategies.
Heeding to a GJM call, educational institutions in the Hills remained closed on Thursday and Friday. Heads of ICSE, CBSE, private and government-aided schools had attended a "Samiksha Sabha" (evaluation meeting) on May 30 where Gurung had announced closure of schools against imposition of Bengali language.
Darjeeling Sadar Police have started a suo motu case against Gurung and heads of schools for conspiring and promoting enmity and communal disharmony. Cases under sections 120B, 153A (b), 505 and 34 have been initiated against Gurung and Roshan Giri, the GJM general secretary, and a host of senior leaders. Police have also slapped cases against Joy Haldar, rector of St. Paul's School, Peter Lingdamu, principal of St. Robert's Higher Secondary School, Prem Pradhan and Jiwan Namdung, both members of Nepali Sahitya Academy, among twelve others.
Gurung said the cop action was an attempt by the CM to attack the roots of the Gorkha community. "The educationists came to the meeting (on May 30) not because of me but for their 'bhasha' (language). Do we now require permission to talk about our own language?" the GJM chief asked.
Gurung also appealed to all opposition political parties to leave aside differences and support the protest rallies. He also asked the different development boards formed by the state government to show support for Nepali language.
The discomfiture is also evident in the Hills Trinamool Congress leadership. "I spoke with state education minister Partha Chatterjee to apprise him about our stand. Bengali as an option is okay but we will not accept if it is made compulsory," said Rajen Mukhia, the Hills TMC president.

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