On June 8, 2017, hundreds of supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) — the most important hill party in West Bengal — launched a sudden attack on a police contingent near where WB Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was meeting her Council of Ministers at the Raj Bhavan. Over a dozen police vehicles were set on fire and more than 50 policemen were injured in relentless stone-pelting by the agitators.
The reason? The WB government decided to make Bengali compulsory in all schools. The GJM took exception to this announcement, and took to the streets. It called a strike in all educational institutes in the hills on June 1 and 2. As both the government and the GJM were locked in a war of words, each threatening the other with dire consequences, tension in the hills started rising. The discontent finally found an outlet on June 8 .
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.
The GJM again intensified the agitation by declaring an indefinite bandh of government offices and those of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, set up in 2011, from June 12. However, things came to a head on June 15, when the police raided the residence of GJM president Bimal Gurung in his stronghold Patlaybas, and recovered weapons and cash, prompting the GJM to call for an indefinite total bandh in the hills.
As the bandh dragged on into July, GJM demanded that the Centre initiate a dialogue on Gorkhaland — a separate state for the Gorkhas.
(With inputs from Shiv Sahay Singh)