Passions ran high in the Darjeeling hills after the charred body of a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha youth activist reached Kalimpong on Sunday, second day of the GJM’s strike.
Mangal Singh Rajput, 45, had last week attempted self-immolation demanding a separate Gorkhaland. He succumbed to his burns on Saturday in Siliguri, where he was being treated.
Describing Rajput as a martyr to the cause, GJM leaders said this incident would only intensify the Statehood movement. A large number of people, raising slogans and carrying GJM flags, lined the road stretches leading to Kalimpong as the hearse passed through.
“We are all very pained at this first incident of self-immolation in the Gorkhaland movement. The death is an outcome of the indifference of the Centre and the State to our Statehood demand,” said Benoy Tamang, GJM assistant general secretary.
The district administration and the GJM leadership appear to be headed for a showdown on Monday when the administration tries to open government offices. The GJM has given a call to picket the offices .
While no major incidents of violence were reported during the day, a vehicle was set on fire at Kalijhora, along the national highway connecting the plains to Sikkim.
“Twelve-15 people were arrested on the day for their involvement in arson and other subversive activities,” District Magistrate Soumitra Mohan told The Hindu over telephone from the district.
Life remained affected throughout the day. Markets and shops were closed and the roads deserted in the hill town. Central security forces patrolled the streets in Darjeeling amid reports of Muslims staying away from Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations in support of the strike. GJM supporters on Sunday demonstrated outside the Darjeeling Sadar police station and the local court, where some of those arrested for disturbing the peace were produced later in the day.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh on Sunday reportedly assured a GJM delegation in New Delhi that the Gorkhaland demand would be discussed by the party parliamentary board.