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19 Jun 2017

In West Bengal’s hills, a summer of discontent

In unison: Supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha take part in a rally to honour protesters who were allegedly killed in clashes with security forces a day earlier, in Darjeeling on Sunday AFP 
Shiv Sahay Singh, TH, JUNE 19, 2017: An eerie silence prevailed on Sunday in Singhamari, the stronghold of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). Three people were killed allegedly in police firing during a violent agitation for a separate State of Gorkhaland on Saturday.
On the fourth day of the indefinite strike called by the GJM in Darjeeling hills, Singhamari, which has been the epicentre of the protests, wore a look of desolation and devastation. A smell of burnt tyres and vehicles pervaded the air, and evidence of a violent clash between the agitators and the security forces lay scattered on Lebong Cart Road that connects Singhamari to Darjeeling town.
Ceaseless unrest
Blood stains that have not yet been washed away by the rain, broken glass, bricks and half-a-dozen burnt vehicles stand testimony to the unrest that continues to rage in the hills. There is absolutely no sight of any security personnel in the region. A few GJM youths stood in solemn silence around a vehicle in which was placed a picture of one of the protesters who was killed the day before.
After Saturday’s violence, the ongoing shutdown in the hills has become even more pronounced. The few shops serving essentials that had remained open till Saturday, were kept shut.
Internet services were down and according to the protesters, this was a ploy of the administration and the police to counter the Gorkhaland movement.
“It was through the Internet and WhatsApp services that we were getting our instructions from our leaders. Even local television channels have gone off air. They are trying to weaken our movement. But I can tell you they will not be successful,” Amu Sherpa a young pro-Gorkhaland activist told The Hindu.
‘Point of no return’
According to Col. (retd) Ramesh Allay, Deputy Chairman of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and central committee member of the GJM, after “Saturday’s killings”, there is no going back in the agitation for Gorkhaland.
“The movement has reached a point of no return. The Chief Minister is now facing the courage of the Gorkhas. There are many others who are willing to sacrifice their lives for Gorkhaland. All parties in the hills are fully behind the GJM on the Gorkhaland demand, and a concrete action plan would be devised at the all-party meeting scheduled on June 20,” Col. Allay said. GJM MLA from Darjeeling Amar Singh Rai told journalists that the State government’s claim that the police did not open fire was “laughable.”
“Three people have been killed. We have bullets to show that they were fired by security sources,” he said, adding that they were not happy with the role of the Central government in the imbroglio either.
“We are being made pawns by the Centre and the State,” he said. The people of Darjeeling, he said, were disappointed that the BJP MP from Darjeeling (S.S. Ahluwalia) had not come to stand beside them.
“I have doubts whether the Centre is really trying to help us.” The GJM is an electoral partner of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
(Source & Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/in-west-bengals-hills-a-summer-of-discontent/article19099529.ece)











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