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28 Jun 2017

Gorkhas in Arunachal back Darjeeling protest

Members of All Arunachal Pradesh Gorkha Youth Welfare Association
take out the rally in Itanagar on Saturday. Picture by UB Photos
Damien Lepcha, TT, Itanagar: Chants of " Jai Gorkha, jai Gorkhaland" and "We want nothing else but Gorkhaland" rent the air here today as the Gorkha community of Arunachal Pradesh hit the streets in support of the ongoing movement in Darjeeling in West Bengal for a separate Gorkhaland state.
Braving a downpour, thousands of Gorkha men, women and children participated in a peaceful candlelit rally by displaying pro-Gorkhaland banners and placards and shouting slogans against the West Bengal government.
Various rallies and solidarity marches are being held across the country and beyond in support of Gorkhaland. Several organisations in the Northeast and those demanding small states have also shown their support for the Gorkhaland movement. Mass rallies were taken out on June 22 in various districts of Assam while a Tripura-based tribal party organised rallies in 29 places across the state today to support the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state.
Today's rally, which started from IG Park, ended at the Itanagar monastery where the protesters lit candles in memory of the three victims of police firing in Darjeeling on June 17.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family members of Mahesh Gurung, Sunil Rai and Bimal Sashankar. We, the people of Arunachal Pradesh, are not supporting the Gorkhaland movement because we want a land in Darjeeling or Kalimpong, but we are here today for our identity," said the president of the All Arunachal Pradesh Gorkha Youth Welfare, (AAPGYWA) Shyam Ghatani.
"We are demanding creation of Gorkhaland to preserve our identity, culture and tradition. Most importantly, we are only demanding our rights," he added.
The leader of the organisation, Chanbir Sonar, said it is high time that Prime Minister Narendra Modi fulfilled promises made to the Gorkha community.
"Modi asserted that he would sympathetically look into the demands of the Gorkhas in his election campaigns, but he has failed to live up to it. If the central government can accord statehood to Telangana, among others, on the basis of language, why can't the Gorkhas get a state of their own?" questioned Sonar. He condemned West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for allegedly terming the Gorkhas "terrorists".
The rally also saw the support of various unions and organisations of the state. Members of the All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union and All Nyishi Students' Union, among others, participated in the rally.
"The demands of the Gorkhas are genuine as they are not fighting a political or a religious battle. This is the fight for their identity and we solely support it," said Kame Kipa, president of the Arunachal Pradesh Abo Tani Clans Youth Association.
Arunachal Pradesh has been home to the Gorkha community for many decades. The Gorkha population in the state is believed to be more than #one lakh.
The Gorkhaland movement once again flared up in the hills of Darjeeling after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee recently decided to introduce Bengali as the second language in the hills which comprise Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Terai, Dooars and certain parts of Siliguri.
To oppose the West Bengal government's decision, hundreds of protesters, under the banner of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, took out a rally. However, what started as a peaceful protest later turned violent in the wake of deaths of three civilians in police firing and many were left injured.
The indefinite shutdown in the hills reached the 10th day today.
(Published on 25 June 2017)

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