State report cites poll politics, N-E militants' role as factors behind Darjeeling violence

Indefinite bandh to continue in hills, says GJM
Report by: 
Agencies
NEW DELHI
20 Jun 2017

Forthcoming elections to Hill Council and involvement of militants from the northeast have been listed by the West Bengal government among the reasons responsible for the recent violence and indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling.

According to sources in the Union home ministry, the West Bengal government's report, received by it on June 17, stated these reasons among others as factors responsible for the violence in Darjeeling. It said the unrest started after an agitation programme, organised by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on June 5, that led to blocking of the state highways. The situation started to worsen from June 8 onwards after three processions taken out by the GJM at Gorkha Rang Manch bhawan, situated about 100 metres away from the Governor's house, turned violent.

The agitators pelted stone on police and there were bombs explosions for two hours in which one state transport bus, eight police vehicles and one police kiosk were burnt, the sources said today, citing the report. The agitators, who are mainly from the GJM, are demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland. The report suggests that elections to Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), that includes Darjeeling and other neighbouring areas, could be a reason behind the ongoing violence, they said.
Bimal Gurung headed GJM dominates the GTA. In 2012, the GJM secured all the 45 seats--22 in Darjeeling sub-division, 10 in Kurseong and 13 in Kalimpong--under the GTA.

Referring to recovery of arms in large scale and cash, the report suggested involvement of militant groups from the northeast behind the violence in Darjeeling, the sources said. The West Bengal government's report, which was sent to the home ministry on June 17, mentions the status as on June 13. It mainly gives details the way protests were carried out, they said. In all, 24 cases have been registered by police. A total of 49 security force personnel have been injured in the violence, the sources added.

The situation is tense but under control, they said. Both Union home minister Rajnath Singh and Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi have spoken to the state administration over the issue. A total of 11 companies--about 1,375 personnel--are stationed in the region. Of them, one is an all-woman company. Darjeeling hills had seen a violent movement for a separate Gorkhaland in the mid 1980s under Subhash Ghisingh. The movement ended with the establishment of a semi- autonomous administrative body in 1988 called Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), which was headed by Ghisingh. As Ghisingh's influence waned over time, the GJM launched another movement for a separate state of Gorkhaland. In 2011, the GJM signed an agreement with the state and central governments and another semi-autonomous administrative unit GTA was born replacing the DGHC.

Meanwhile the GJM today announced that the indefinite bandh will continue in hills. At the all-party meeting called by the GJM today, the only slogan that was raised was the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. It deserves mention here that the Sikkim Democratic Front, the ruling party in this north-eastern state, today extended its support to the "democratic demand" for a separate Gorkhaland and expressed its opposition to the "illegal, undemocratic and unconstitutional" acts committed in Darjeeling.

A meeting of the SDF leadership here, without naming anyone, hoped that peace would return to the Darjeeling hills soon and demands of the Gorkha people would be fulfilled. The Sikkim Assembly had, on March 29, 2011, passed a resolution in favour of Gorkhaland.