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9 Jul 2017

Darjeeling abandoned: Bimal Gurung hiding, CM Mamata Banerjee playing waiting game, MP Ahluwalia missing

Prabhash K Dutta, India Today, New Delhi, July 9, 2017: Darjeeling Hills are burning for about one month but West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has not visited the region. GJM chief Bimal Gurung has largely been hiding after launching the agitation for Gorkhaland. Darjeeling MP and Union Minister SS Ahluwalia, too, has not visited his constituency. 
Hundreds of protesters came back on the streets of Darjeeling yesterday as fresh violence erupted in the hills. Gorkhaland supporters torched a police outpost, a toy train station and clashed with the police at two places.
Three protesters identified as Samir Gurung, Suraj Sundas and Tashi Bhutia, who was a GNLF worker died in the clashes with security forces. The Gorkhaland Janmukti Morcha (GJM) alleged that security forces fired at the protesters. The CRPF and police have denied the charge.
With fresh violence in Darjeeling Hills, the Mamata Banerjee government called back Army to the city. Two columns of the Army comprising around 100 personnel were deployed at Sonada and Darjeeling.
BIMAL GURUNG IS HIDING
Today is the 25th day of indefinite strike called by GJM chief Bimal Gurung over making Bangla mandatory in all the schools of West Bengal including those in Darjeeling.
But, ironically, after launching the protest Bimal Gurung is in hiding. He came out briefly to address press on July 4 stating that the indefinite strike would continue.
While Gurung is not on the streets with protesters, his supporters are accused of attacking policemen, damaging public property, committing arson and intimidating shopkeepers who try to open shops.
Before fresh violence erupted yesterday the Gorakhaland agitation had started showing signs of fatigue with the tourism - the pivot of local economy - stopped, offices closed rendering salary cut to employees and absence of leadership.
MAMATA BANERJEE'S WAITING GAME
Gorkhaland agitation erupted on June 9 when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held cabinet meeting in Darjeeling's Raj Bhavan. It was the first cabinet meeting of West Bengal government at Raj Bhavan in Darjeeling in 45 years.
Mamata Banerjee has not visited the trouble-hit region since then. Mamata Banerjee seems to be playing waiting game. Though, she has offered for talks with the GJM but her statement makes it clear that she is ready to wait.
Mamata Banerjee said, "If peace returns in the next 10-15 days, I can call the hill parties for talks. But, let us restore peace first."
The West Bengal Chief Minister is prepared to wait for another 10-15 days of trouble and violence in Darjeeling.
Mamata Banerjee also said, "The government has shown enough restraint in the interest of the people of the hills. Peace has to return to the hills."
Even though the GJM has vowed to continue the strike and rallies are being held in different parts of the region every day, people's participation is reported to be declining. People attending these rallies have been found sneaking out into neighbourhood shops and grocery stores to buy essentials and stock vegetables and ration.
The agitation may be losing the steam like any other mass movement. Mamata Banerjee seems to be waiting for that day when people and protesters are tired of GJM sponsored indefinite shutdown before she looks for a way forward.
Meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee is diverting the blame on to the Centre for "not cooperating." Centre snapped back saying that the Mamata government refused 400 central security forces.
DARJEELING MP SS AHLUWALIA MISSING
The people in the Darjeeling hills have been voting for the BJP in last few elections. Union Minister of State for Agriculture S S Ahluwalia is the Lok Sabha member from Darjeeling.
SS Ahluwalia had promised to take up the issue of Gorkhaland during his election campaign in 2014. But, the Darjeeling hills have been burning for 25 days now over the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state, the Union Minister has visited his own constituency.
At least eight persons have died and more than 100 have been injured in violence over demand for Gorkhaland, which Ahluwalia promised his voter to raise at appropriate level while seeking their support.  (Source & Courtesy: India Todey)

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