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9 Jul 2017

Fresh Darjeeling violence amid Gorkhaland protests: 10 things to know

GorkhalandPramod Giri, HT, 9 July 2017, Siliguri: A fresh round of violence in the Darjeeling Hills on Saturday left three people dead, with mobs targeting the world heritage toy train, an office of the ruling Trinamool Congress and a police vehicle.

Authorities say only one person was killed but the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), which is leading the stir for a separate state to be carved out of West Bengal’s northern hills, claims police shot dead three people.

The revived stir for Gorkhaland has hit normal life and kept tourists away from the popular Himalayan resort. Schools, offices and businesses have been shut for almost a month. Vehicles, too, stay off the roads.

Here are 10 things to know about the renewed stir for Gorkhaland and the unrest in Darjeeling:

1) The current phase of violence started on June 8 when GJM leaders led a protest demonstration demanding chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who was chairing a cabinet meeting in Darjeeling that day, take back the decision making Bengali a compulsory subject in all schools, including those in the Darjeeling Hills. The Nepali-speaking majority was upset over the decision to “impose” Bengali on them.

2) To quell the violence that spread quickly after GJM supporters clashed with police in Darjeeling, the government called in the army.

3) The chief minister later exempted Darjeeling schools but by then the agitation against the “imposition of Bengali” had revived the demand for a separate. The hill parties, which held several meetings, unanimously resolved to step up the struggle for Gorkhaland. The BJP joined the meetings.

4) On June 15, police raided the GJM office and the home of its leader, Bimal Gurung, after the outfit called for an indefinite shutdown that continues to this day.

5) Three protesters were killed and many wounded allegedly in police firing in Darjeeling on June 17. The chief minister denied that three young men were killed by police bullets.

6) To bring situation under control, the government blocked internet services on June 17. The ban continues.

7) A Gorkhaland movement coordination committee was formed on June 29 with representatives from 15 parties and organisation to lead the struggle for a separate state.

8) Violence flared up on July 8. Three persons were killed in alleged police action as protesters vandalised government buildings and set fire to a toy train station and damaging police vehicles, forcing the administration to call the army back barely a week after it had left.

9) Mamata Banerjee said she was ready for talks with the hill parties if they return to the path of peace. The offer was shot down, with Gorkha leaders saying they didn’t want a dialogue with the state government.

10) The chief minister has blamed the BJP, an ally of the GJM, for stoking unrest, accusing the Centre of “disintegrating federalism” by refusing to send paramilitary forces to curb the violence. She also sees a foreign hand. “The violence in Darjeeling is a planned one. There are foreign links to this violence,” Banerjee has said.

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