GORKHA STIR SETS HILLS ON FIRE

Army called in to quell violence  Morcha calls 12-hour bandh today  Tourists evacuated  Mamata extends stay
Report by: 
Durgadas Bandopadhyay and Deep Gazmer
DARJEELING
8 Jun 2017

Six years after the formation of the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) and ushering in peace in Darjeeling, choppy days have come back to the hills as army was deployed following clashes between supporters of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the police here. The supporters damaged police cars and set vehicles on fire when a state cabinet meeting was in progress at the Rajbhavan.

The agitation by the Morcha was a body blow to the tourism industry as well as tourists began to flee the place. The state government has made all arrangements to evacuate them by arranging for buses from Darjeeling. ``I will not leave Darjeeling until a single tourist is here,'' chief minister Mamata Banerjee said. The police was forced to use baton and fire tear gas shells to disperse the agitators. GJM supporters tried to break the barricades put up by the police and hurled brickbats. Some security personnel received injuries, the police said.
The GJM was protesting among other things "imposition of Bengali language in the schools in the hills".
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and most of the cabinet ministers were present in the hill town apart from Chief Secretary, Home secretary and other high officials. However the ministers were escorted out of the hills by the evening. The GJM supporters held a dharna and raised slogans against the chief minister. Shopkeepers at some places, including the Mall, downed their shutters while the traffic came to a halt, causing inconvenience to tourists.

The GJM accused the TMC government of trying to disrupt peace in Darjeeling by its "divide and rule policy" and called a 12-hour shutdown in the hills tomorrow.
"The TMC is systematically trying to use police and its goons to disrupt peace in the hills. Today the police resorted to unprovoked baton charge and firing of tear gas shells," GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said.
"We condemn the state-sponsored violence. We have decided to call a 12-hour shutdown in the hills tomorrow. If the situation deteriorates further, we may go for an indefinite shutdown," Giri said.
He also said that the GJM would never compromise with the fight for the identity of the people of the hills. Asked about the GJM's agitation, Mamata Banerjee said, "They have the democratic right. Let them do it. They have no issue. Let there be competition for development," she said.
On the GJM's opposition to the alleged "imposition of Bengali language" in schools in the hills, she reiterated that Bengali was not made a compulsory subject."Rather, we gave recognition to the Nepali language," she said.
"The people in the hill areas have been demanding development. Nothing had happened during the Left rule of 34 years, but things have changed after our government took over. We have done so many development works here. I am proud to say that I am the first chief minister to visit the hills for more than 100 times," she said.
CPI(M) state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra compared the TMC government's policy on Darjeeling with that on Kashmir by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"The condition in the hill is a matter of grave concern. The Darjeeling policy of our chief minister is just a replica of the Kashmir policy adopted by our Prime Minister. There should be no provocation, instead there should be talks and peace should be restored," Mishra said.
Leader of opposition Adbul Manan accused Mamata of betraying the people of the hills through false promise. "What the chief minister has been doing in the hills is nothing but a political gimmick for the last few years. The Gorkhas are our brothers, they fight for the nation and sacrifice their lives. The CM is using a divide and rule policy in the hills," he alleged.
Meanwhile the state government has removed Rabindra Singh as secretary GTA and instead appointed Barun Ray in his post.