The picturesque hill station of Darjeeling has in recent days been a witness to less than picturesque scenes after numerous protesters have taken to the streets in order to renew their demand for a new state of Gorkhaland.
Fresh demands for a separate state were triggered after reports of Bengali being made a compulsory language for all schools in the hills. The opposition to this ‘Bengali imposition’ was reported to be peaceful initially, but the state administration is now being accused of ignoring the grievances of people by engaging with the Gorkha activists over their concerns.
Around 16th June, there were already signs of situation worsening after there were reports of alleged Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activists setting a Panchayat office and a Health Center ablaze in areas nearby Darjeeling. This though has been strongly refuted by the GJM MLAs, who have accused the TMC government of turning a peaceful political movement into a law and order situation. They have also claimed that outsiders were indulging in this arson and it had nothing to do with GJM activists.
There were already signs of this being a far more serious issue after security agencies had reportedly recovered large arms caches from various parts of the protest torn areas. However, Gorkha activists claim that their traditional weapons such as khukri are being claimed as ‘arms cache’.
Amid all these, tourism, which is the main income for the people over there, has taken a huge hit. The revenue loss has possibly been compounded by the fact that the month of June usually means peak tourist season.
Now there are serious questions being raised about the manner in which the situation is being tackled by the West Bengal government. There have been reports of GJM activists dying due to police firing.
According to local news outlets, so far 3 protesters have died and 15 have been gravely injured. A few users also took to twitter with pictures of alleged bullets shells they managed to pick up:
— Upendra M Pradhan (@Jorebungley) June 17, 2017
This whole situation though hasn’t only taken its toll on the protesters. There have also been reports of central paramilitary force assistant commandant battling for his life after having his throat slashed by agitators. There have also been reports of a few police officers too getting injured due to gunshots aimed at them.
Now in order to sort out the whole mess, the government has called all the hill parties for talks on 22nd June at Silliguri. Even though Mamata Banerjee has categorically stated that she won’t allow any division of Bengal, it remains to be seen if some sort of agreement can be worked out which would allow normalcy to return to the hills.