In dramatic displays of solidarity with the demand for a separate State of Gorkhaland, a member of the youth wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) attempted self-immolation, and some members of women organisations shaved their heads in public in Darjeeling, even as the indefinite strike called by the party entered its sixth day on Thursday.
Even as normal life remained paralysed, the State government protested strongly against the violence in the region and reasserted that stern measures will be taken, whenever required, to prevent disruptions to public life. Undeterred, the GJM leadership said the strike will continue and the agitation will be “non-violent”.
The self-immolation attempt by Purba Sherpa, a 32-year-old physically challenged person, comes within a week of the death of a GJM activist who died after setting himself ablaze in Kalimpong on July 30. Mr. Sherpa was taken to Sadar hospital and is condition is now stable.
“How much blood does the nation need to hear our cause for Gorkhaland ?” asked GJM president Bimal Gurung, referring to the second self-immolation attempt. “I respect his (Sherpa’s) sacrifice for Gorkhaland,” he added.
Mr. Gurung has also called for GJM “representatives” in different States to organise demonstrations in their respective places. “The issue of Gorkhaland must be heard in all parts of the country; only then it will make an impact in Parliament,” he said.
Veteran BJP leader L.K Advani has reportedly assured a team of GJM leaders, now in New Delhi, that he will raise the matter in Parliament “at the appropriate time”.
In Darjeeling, GJM supporters, including women, took out a large and silent procession in support of their statehood demand. There were young boys with “Gorkhaland” scrawled on their bare chests among them.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reviewed the situation in the hills with senior State and police officials at the State Secretariat here after receiving a report from the State’s Home Secretary, Basudeb Banerjee who visited Darjeeling. It was decided that forcible closures would not be accepted and those undermining calm in the region would be dealt with firmly.
Later, the State’s Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra told journalists that sectors like tea, travel and education, as well as the public distribution system, had been affected by the GJM’s strike.
“Stern action will be taken against those inconveniencing the public as well as State employees. Those willing to go to work will be provided necessary protection,” he said.