Times of Oman
Jun 24, 2017 Last Updated at 15:18 AST
Internet remains suspended in Darjeeling, GJM workers take out protest march
June 19, 2017 | 7:44 PM
by PTI
GJM supporters burn an effigy of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Chowk Bazaar during their indefinite bandh in Darjeeling on Monday. Photo - PTI
 
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Darjeeling (West Bengal): Security forces patrolled the streets in this tense hill district and Internet services remained suspended for the second day on Monday as GJM supporters held a march here and burnt effigies of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for rejecting their demand for a separate state.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has called an all-party meeting here on Tuesday to discuss the next course of action. In Kolkata, the chief minister urged all parties concerned and stakeholders to attend an all-party meeting convened by the state government in Siliguri on June 22 on the prevailing situation in Darjeeling.

"Violence cannot be a solution to any problem and only talks can solve it," she told reporters. Kamata had said on Saturday, "I am ready to sacrifice my life, but I will not allow Bengal to be divided." The GJM ruled out any discussion with the government, but said it would be "comfortable" holding talks with the BJP-led government at the Centre.

The BJP is an ally of the GJM and party MP S. S. Ahluwalia had won the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Darjeeling with its support. "We are not ready for talks with the West Bengal government. Mamata Banerjee has insulted us, she has called us terrorists," GJM leader Binay Tamang said.

The GJM agitators on Monday blocked NH-31A at some places in Darjeeling district to protest the death of three their activists on Saturday. The 92-km-long NH 31A connects Sevoke in Darjeeling district to Gangtok and is considered the lifeline of Sikkim.

Around 30km of the highway passes through West Bengal. A state police official said, "Raids will continue. In fact, there will be raids tonight itself which will be on the basis of our intelligence inputs." Anybody disturbing the law and order situation in the hills would face "tough handling" by the police, he said.

Meanwhile, the West Bengal government has sent a report on the ongoing violence in Darjeeling to the Union Home Ministry, which has dispatched a contingent of 125 women security personnel to help restore peace in the hills. The state government's report is under examination of the ministry, official sources said in New Delhi.

Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi has also spoken to the state's chief secretary, who had demanded that two companies -- 250 personnel -- of women paramilitary personnel be sent there, they said. Carrying black flags, protesters, especially the youth, marched on the streets of Chowkbazar area of Darjeeling, shouting slogans against the state government and the chief minister. They also burnt effigies of Mamata and vowed to continue their fight for a separate Gorkhaland. "Three of our activists were killed. We are ready to give our lives, but will not stop protesting till we get Gorkhaland," Sirish Pradhan, a GJM worker, said.

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Several small processions were taken out by the GJM activists in various parts of Darjeeling. Internet services remained suspended for the second day on Monday to stop the GJM activists from using the social media to spread "provocative posts", police sources said. Security forces patrolled the streets as the situation remained tense on the fifth day of the GJM-sponsored indefinite shutdown.

"The situation is still very tense. Since morning, there has been no incident of violence. But we are on high alert and are prepared for any eventuality," said a senior police officer. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had appealed to the protesters on Sunday not to resort to violence and instead, hold a dialogue to resolve any issue. But the GJM expressed its "displeasure" with the Centre and questioned the absence of BJP MP from Darjeeling Ahluwalia at the time of the crisis.

"The role of alliance partner BJP is very unfortunate and very disappointing. We had expected something positive on the part of the central government. We feel we are being used as pawns by the Centre and the state," Darjeeling MLA and senior GJM leader Amar Singh Rai said.

The GJM activists had taken out a protest march here on Sunday carrying the bodies of two party supporters who, they alleged, were killed in police firing on Saturday. Police pickets and barricades were placed in front of the government and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) offices and various entry exit points of the hills while Rapid Action Force (RAF) and a sizable number of women police personnel were also deployed. Except medicine shops, all others shops, hotels were closed in the hills.


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