Gorkhaland protests: Darjeeling pensive as agitation enters second week

Gorkhaland protests: Darjeeling pensive as agitation enters second week

The unrest in Gorkhaland has been characterised by arson, violent clashes and bitter political recriminations. In photo: Image of a torched police vehicle on Saturday. Photograph: (Zee News Network)

WION Web Team Darjeeling, West Bengal, India Jun 19, 2017, 01.55 PM (IST)

The disquiet in Darjeeling hills of West Bengal -- the epicentre of a violent separate statehood protests -- refuses to subside as the indefinite agitation enters its second week.  

India's security personnel were on high alert and the internet remained out of bounds as no incidents of violence were reported on Monday morning.

"The situation is still very tense. Since morning there has been no incident of violence but we are on high alert and prepared for any eventuality," a senior police official, wishing anonymity, told Press Trust of India.

Violence ripped through the tourism-friendly hills in the north of West Bengal following Mamata Banerjee's West Bengal government's decision to make Bengali mandatory for all students in the state.

The initial protests were to call out the state's heavy-handedness in forcing Bengali language on the Nepali-dominated region, but it subsequently snowballed into an agitation for a long-standing demand for a separate state named Gorkhaland.

What followed was a trail of destruction last week as angry demonstrators and the police clashed frequently to leave several dead and scores injured.

Sunday was the latest flash point in the riven region demonstrators set ablaze a public library, two panchayat offices and a police vehicle in Kalimpong, roughly 50 kilometres from Darjeeling. 

Darjeeling, meanwhile, remained in shutdown mode for the seventh consecutive day on Sunday as thousands of supporters took to the streets to mark their protest against alleged police killing of two GJM supporters.

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Bimal Gurung -- who is spearheading the separatist movement -- also vowed to carry on the agitation till a separate state is carved out of West Bengal.

He also warned of "trouble" if the police interfered in the statehood protests which has been characterised by clashes, arson attacks and political recriminations. 

The 51-year-old leader made the statement after baton-wielding police fired tear gas shells at the protesters on Saturday. The police also conducted raids on offices and homes of GJM leaders.

The deterioration in the law and order situation was further exacerbated when the police conducted raids on offices and homes of GJM leaders.

Darjeeling paralysed

The hills remain paralysed as demonstrations enter its second week.

The Indian army has been stationed in the region while the police are manning government offices and various entry-exit points.

Businesses remained shut except drugstores in the region as India's federal government urged the local government and GJM-led political groups to end the days-long turbulence.

The internet services has been cut off since Sunday morning to deter the GJM from spreading messages and "provocative posts" -- this despite the Human Rights Watch recently slamming India for "illegally" shutting down cyberspace in violence-hit regions 20 times in the first five months of 2017.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurungalso vowed to carry on the agitation till a separate state is carved out of West Bengal

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