Hills continue on knife’s edge

Rajnath sermon for “dialogue” panacea, Gurung rubbishes Mamata’s claim of deep-rooted conspiracy, firm on Gokhaland; Shah snaps at Mamata, GJM takes out rally with body of activist demanding removal of security forces, TRS MP demands thorough examina
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Agencies
NEW DELHI
18 Jun 2017

As Darjeeling remained on the boil over a separate statehood agitation, Union home minister Rajnath Singh today appealed to protesters not to resort to violence and, instead, hold dialogue to resolve any issue. He said resorting to violence would never help them in finding a solution and asked the people living there to remain calm and peaceful. "All concerned parties and stakeholders should resolve their differences and misunderstandings through dialogue in amicable environment," Singh said.In a democracy like India resorting to violence would never help in finding a solution, he said, emphasising that "every issue can be resolved through mutual dialogue". "I appeal to the people living in Darjeeling and nearby areas to remain calm and peaceful. Nobody should resort to violence," the home minister said in a series of tweets. Singh also spoke to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today and discussed with her the situation prevailing there. "She (Banerjee) has apprised me of the situation prevailing in Darjeeling," he said. Singh had yesterday also spoken to Banerjee and asked her to take all possible steps so that peace is restored in the picturesque hill station where people are protesting against "imposition" of Bengali in schools by making the language mandatory. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which is in power in the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, is spearheading the agitation there demanding a separate state -- Gorkhaland. Darjeeling remained on the edge today as thousands of protesters assembled at the central Chowkbazar carrying the body of a GJM activist, who was killed during clashes with police, and raised slogans demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland. Security personnel in large numbers were deployed in the hill district of West Bengal after widespread clashes between Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activists and the police were witnessed yesterday. The GJM has claimed that two of their supporters were shot dead by police in Singmari yesterday. The police rejected the allegations of firing by its personnel, and said one person was killed during the clashes. This was the first death since violent protests returned to Darjeeling on June 8, after a gap of a few years. Earlier, thousands of GJM  protesters assembled at the central Chowkbazar carrying the body of a GJM activist, who was killed during clashes with police, and raised slogans demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland. Security personnel in large numbers were deployed in the hill district of West Bengal after widespread clashes between Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activists and the police were witnessed yesterday. The protesters, also carrying black flags and the Tricolour, assembled at the Chowkbazar. They shouted slogans demanding that the police and security personnel be "immediately removed" from Darjeeling. "We think the police and security personnel should be immediately removed from Darjeeling to create conducive environment for talks. The government should allow us to carry out peaceful and democratic agitation," Darjeeling MLA Amar Rai of the GJM told reporters here. The GJM has claimed that two of their supporters were shot dead by police in Singmari yesterday. The police rejected the allegations of firing by its personnel, and said one person was killed during the clashes.

This was the first death since violent protests returned to Darjeeling on June 8, after a gap of a few years. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had yesterday said that the ongoing agitation in Darjeeling hills was a "deep-rooted conspiracy" supported by the insurgent groups of the Northeast and some foreign countries. The GJM had rubbished the allegation made by Banerjee, saying that she was trying to malign the Gorkhas fighting for their identity. Meanwhile, GJM chief Bimal Gurung today termed as "white lies" Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's claim that the agitation in Darjeeling hills was supported by insurgent groups, and asserted the struggle for a separate Gorkhaland state would be Responding to the charge, BJP chief Amit Shah took potshots at Banerjee in Mumbai, saying she smelt "conspiracy in everything". "Mamata sees conspiracy in everything. She had made similar allegations against the Indian Army as well," Shah told a press conference when asked about Banerjee dubbing the ongoing agitation in Darjeeling "a deep-rooted conspiracyntensified.  "The allegations are baseless, Mamata Banerjee is trying to mislead people. It is not a political fight but a fight for our own identity. We will not stop until and unless Gorkhaland is achieved. The struggle will intensify in the hills," Gurung said in an audio-visual statement. On the boil for the past 10 days over a separate state demand, Darjeeling had yesterday witnessed widespread clashes between GJM activists and the police in which one person was killed and 35 security personnel were injured, including an India Reserve Battalion (IRB) officer. Meanwhile, GJM got a shot in the arm as Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MP Kalvakuntla Kavitha today said a dialogue must be initiated with those demanding a separate Gorkhaland state and the issue thoroughly examined, and that it should not be kept lingering for long. A key leader of the ruling TRS, Kavitha, however, did not state if the demand was legitimate or otherwise. Kavitha said even during the agitation for creation of Telangana, which was formed three years ago after bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, there were movements pushing for Vidarbha and Gorkhaland states, and the TRS always held the view that every demand had to be treated and looked at separately. "We said (at that time) kindly examine the merits of the case individually. So, I believe now also the Gorkhaland issue has to be examined properly from its people's point of view," the MP from Nizamabad in Telangana told PTI here. "I would not able to comment 'yes' (it should be created), 'no' (should not be), because I do not know what the ground situation is. I believe every case has to be considered on its own merit," she said.Asked if she thought the demand for a separate Gorkhaland is "legitimate", she noted that India itself is a combination of so many diverse cultures. "All of us want to assert our own independent identity which is a good thing because we have been united despite being so diverse in our cultural backdrop. But when it comes to political decision-making, I believe rest of the issues also have to be considered," she said. "I would not say it's a legitimate demand or an illegitimate demand. It has to be thoroughly examined," the daughter of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said.(PTI)