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26 Jun 2017

Strike in Bengal hills enters 11th day amid political manoeuvring and occasional violence

Protesters in Darjeeling raised slogans in support of the demand for Gorkhaland over the weekend.(PTI)
Pramod Giri, HT, 26 June 2017, Siliguri:The unrest caused by the bandh in the hills of Darjeeling showed no signs of ending on Sunday or Monday morning.

Ajit Yadav, the police superintendent of the district of Kalimpong, said that at a rally in the village of Marung protesters “severely” beat up the driver ofa police car, and then lit the car on fire. There haven’t yet been any arrests.

In addition to protests throughout the hills, there was a cultural programme and concert in Kalimpong, where performers sang of the demand for Gorkhaland.

Binay Tamang, a spokesman for the GJM, said that on Monday the strike would be temporarily suspended for members of the Muslim community, who would be permitted to drive their cars from 6 am until 6 pm in order to attend mosque or visit relatives.

Tamang added that, on Tuesday, protesters will burn copies of the agreement that established the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration to symbolize their demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

Kailash Vijayvargiya, a national general secretary of the BJP who is in charge of the party’s affairs in West Bengal, said that although the party does not support the establishment of Gorkhaland, he feels that irresponsible behaviour on part of the state government caused the current crisis.

“The state government has dishonoured the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration accord by denying administrative and financial authority to the GTA,” said Vijayvargiya. “This was an insult for the people in the hills, and chief minister Mamata Banerjee should come and apologize to the hill people.”

The hills also saw a counter-protest on Sunday in Siliguri, where roughly 5,000 people went on an anti-Gorkhaland march. Organisers of the march, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that it was a spontaneous event coordinated via social media to combat a “conspiracy to divide the state”.

Yet people who have previously addressed Trinamool Congress party rallies in the area, as well as identifiable activists of the anti-Gorkhaland groups Amara Bangali (We are Bengalis) and the Bangla and Bangla Bachao Committee (Save Bengal and Bengali Language), were also among those leading the crowd.

Dr Mukund Majumdar, an office bearer of the Bangla and Bangla Bachao Committee who also participated in the rally, joined the organisers in describing the rally as spontaneous.

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