The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), on Saturday, called for an indefinite shutdown in the northern West Bengal hills from Monday. Principally targeting public offices to press for a separate state of Gorkhaland, the call for a shutdown has caused fresh uncertainty in the region which earlier seemed to be returning to normalcy with the Army deployment.
What is GJM?
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is a political party that campaigns for the creation of a separate state, Gorkhaland, comprising of areas north of West Bengal, including Darjeeling and areas of Dooars. It is headed by the 52-year-old Bimal Gurung.
The current bout of trouble began when the Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamta Banerjee, on May 16, said that Bengali would be made compulsory for all students across the state.
“If the student chooses Bengali, Hindi, English, Urdu , Gurmukhi, Nepali, Alchiki as a first language, he/she may opt for two other languages of their choice. One of the three languages would have to be Bengali.The two other choices are completely dependent on what the student chooses,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
The GJM, which is popular among the Nepali-speaking Gorkhas in Darjeeling, raised strong objection to this proposal and called for a protest on June 8. At around 3 p.m on the day, things took a turn for the worse when the GJM supporters clashed with the police. As the situation spun out of control, the Army was called in to restore order in the area. The situation improved by evening.
On June 9, the GJM called for a 12-hour bandh starting from 6 a.m to protest against the “indiscriminate police action on the peaceful demonstration”. The CM termerd the bandh as “illegal” and warned of “strict legal action” against those taking part in it.
Again, on June 10, as life limped back to normalcy in the city, GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri called for an indefinite bandh in govt and GTA offices. He added that schools, colleges, transport, hotels have been exempted from the purview of the shutdown.
What is the impact of this bandh?
The unrest in the hill station has affected thousands of tourists who are in the Darjeeling hills as it is the peak season. Many have been stranded at various points of northern West Bengal’s hills including Darjeeling. A number of them chose to cut short their vacation and moved to Siliguri, which is better connected to other parts of the country.
The Chief Minister has said that that arrangements have been made to help the tourists to return to Siliguri from Darjeeling. The state government has also arranged buses to carry the tourists from Siliguri to Kolkata, she said.