GJMM shifts goal-post: Bimal Gurung threatens agitation for Gorkhaland state
A day after Gorkhaland Jana Mukti Morcha protests turned violent in Darjeeling, the 12 hour bandh called by the outfit was successful. Around 90 percent of the shops were closed in the hills,
However, GJMM supporters set fire to the state-run Industrial Training Institute (ITI) at Mongpu in Darjeeling on Friday and broke the windshields of some vehicles.
The West Bengal government has formed a three member committee comprising IPS officers Javed Shamim ,Special IG North Bengal, Ajoy Nanda ,commissioner of Asansol-Durgapur and Siddhnath Gupta (IG) organisation, to take care of the law and order situation in the hills.
On Friday, GJMM chief Bimal Gurung made a U-turn and said that the outfit will continue its “agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland”. On Thursday, he had claimed that the agitation was against the West Bengal government's decision to make Bengali compulsory in state-run schools.
On Friday, “We will withdrew the strike but continue our agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland”.
Gurung's strange change of goal-post could be because Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had clarified earlier that Bengali would be an optional subject, not a compulsory one.
Banerjee on Friday alleged that the GJMM had planned the violence in advance to assert themselves in the hills as they had lost ground during the civic elections. She said that since GJMM had nothing to show in terms of development, it is resorting to violence ahead of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration elections scheduled in July.
However, she admitted that there was an intelligence failure and the administration was caught unawares by the GJMM's move.
A section of All India Trinamool Congress leaders feel the BJP could have played a role in provoking the violence. They say that a day before the violence, BJP leaders including state president Dilip Ghosh met GJMM leaders.
The GJMM leaders are set to meet on Saturday to decide their next plan of action in the hills.
“We think that the Army has been deployed as the entire state Cabinet is in Darjeeling’s Raj Bhavan,” Gurung said.
On Friday, six companies of the army were deployed in the hills.
While the state government has already provided adequate bus services and car services to drop tourists to Siliguri, the state transport department has also arranged special bus services from Siliguri to Kolkata after the 12 hour bandh was called by GJMM.
The state government has formed a six member committee comprising officers from the state finance department to probe into the alleged irregularities in the GTA. They have been asked to submit a report within two weeks.
Stranded tourists claimed that if army hadn't been called, it would have been difficult for the state police to control the situation.
Sudarshan Ghosh an IT employee who returned to Kolkata, witnessed the clash between the GJMM and the police on Thursday.
“For around two hours we had to stay confined in a hotel room but we could hearing bombs being hurled at the police. It was really frightening to see that police jeeps were being burnt. When the army was pressed into action after two hours, the situation came under control. Police officers were badly beaten up by GJMM supporters,” Ghosh narrated.
On Friday, the state government ordered closure of Bhanu Bhawan as it was found that the GJMM supporters stacked bombs and bricks inside the building and used it during the violence on Thursday.
The district administration of Darjeeling issued a notice on Friday to close down the Bhawan for two months . Bhanu Bhawan is situated very close to the SP Bunglow in Darjeeling and Raj Bhavan is located just half a kilometre away
CPI(M) leader Biman Bose blamed CM Banerjee for the crisis. “It is because of Mamata’s divisive policy in the hills that the ethnic groups have become violent. The state will have to be more careful.”
Banerjee however criticised Bose saying, “They (Left Front) failed to look after the welfare of the hill communities for 34 years. Our state government has already taken necessary action in this regard.”
Amol Mukherjee , professor at Presidency College said “The state government should be more proactive and cautious before coming to any decision regarding the hills. The state intelligence should also be more vigilant.”