Darjeeling remained on the edge on Sunday 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 on Saturday.
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 are the highlights of the events on the ground:
#1:00 PM: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh appeals for peace
Rajnath Singh on Sunday appealed to people of affected region to remain calm and maintain peace.
"In a democracy like India resorting to violence would never help in finding a solution. Every issue can be resolved through mutual dialogue." He added, "I appeal to the people living in Darjeeling and nearby areas to remain calm and peaceful. Nobody should resort to violence."
“Spoke to West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee this morning. She has apprised me of the situation prevailing in Darjeeling,” he said.
#12:35 PM: Examine Gorkhaland issue from people's point of view: TRS MP
Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MP Kalvakuntla Kavitha on Sunday 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.
West Bengal’s Darjeeling district has been on the boil over a separate state demand and witnessed widespread clashes between Gorkha Janmukti Morcha activists and the police. One person was killed in the violent protests that returned to Darjeeling on June 8, after a gap of a few years.
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.
#12:30 PM: Mamata spreading lies, misleading people: Gurung
GJM chief Bimal Gurung on Sunday 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 intensified.
Banerjee had yesterday said that the GJM-led agitation in Darjeeling hills is a “deep-rooted conspiracy” supported by the insurgent groups of the Northeast and some foreign countries.
“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. (read full story here)
#12:00 PM: GJM regathering Gorkhaland Personnel – peacekeeping wing
With GJM gearing up for a prolonged confrontation with West Bengal government over the Gorkhaland statehood issue, the party’s leadership is planning to revive Gorkhaland Personnel(GLP) - its “peacekeeping” wing. “The situation is getting worse with each passing day. We feel that a head-on collision is just a matter of time. So we need to prepare ourselves to counter the state government democratically,” GJM central committee member and former in-charge of GLP Colonel (retd) Ramesh Alley told PTI.
“We (GJM) will revive and recruit more youths in GLP our own peacekeeping force. We are not into any kind of violence nor is GLP into this. But we have to prepare ourselves,” he said. GJM, Alley said, wants to raise a 8000-strong force in Darjeeling hills which will be well prepared to tackle “any kind of situation”.
The idea of setting by GLP by recruiting youths from the hills was first mooted by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) supremo Bimal Gurung during the Gorkhaland agitation of 2008. Gurung had then held a meeting with former army personnel and officers from the hills and requested them to take charge of selection, recruitment and training of the youths. The outfit was first named Gorkhaland Police, but after opposition from various quarters it was renamed Gorkhaland Personnel (GLP).
The criteria for a place in this force was education upto standard eight and of course physical fitness and agility. After the initial selection, nearly 3000 youths were trained for joining GLP.
#12:00 PM: We are Indians and can never think of armed struggle against the Centre: GJM
“We are Indians and we hope that the Centre will take action to resolve the crisis in the hills,” Alley said. “We have been soldiers all our life. We can never think of armed struggle against the Centre. We love our motherland India, but we want a separate state. It is a fight for our own identity,” Alley said. Darjeeling has been on the boil for the past ten days and indefinite shutdown is on by GJM in support of its separate Gorkhaland demand.