Darjeeling language dispute: Army mobilised to contain protests

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jun 9, 2017-The West Bengal (WB) state government of India has deployed Army in Darjeeling district on Thursday after protests against the “forced imposition of Bengali language’’ in state schools turned violent, reported The Indian Express.

The protest led by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) turned violent after protesters resorted to vandalism as they torched police vehicles and attacked policemen, according to our correspondent Prabet Portel. Police officials said that protesters hurled stones at policemen who then used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

According to a local journalist Bimal Rai, the police on Thursday had fired a few dozen rounds of teargas shells to contain the situation after the agitating Bimal Gurung-led GJM cadres chanted slogans when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee was holding a Cabinet meeting at Bhanu Bhawan in Darjeeling.

The Indian Express has quoting a statement issued by the Army Eastern Command, “Requisition from the state government has been received. Two Army columns based in Darjeeling are moving out. Each column has 43 men.”

But those witnesses to the incident in Darjeeling claimed that the protest was peaceful, read the report.

Meanwhile, the GJM has called for a 12-hour bandh from 6 am on Friday.

Protests in the hill district of the Indian state, mostly dominated by Nepali-speaking people, broke out following an announcement by West Bengal State Education Minister Parta Chatterjee, two weeks ago, to incorporate Bangla language as a compulsory subject across the state.

Likewise, the decision of the state government also has not suited well with Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), the TMC ally in the hills, read the report, which called the state administration’s decision “undemocratic” and “draconian”.

However, the GNLF backed down, saying it will remain a TMC ally after WB Chief Minister Banerjee who was on a visit to Mirik after winning the civic body polls for the first time, had clarified that Bengali will be an optional language, and not mandatory, in schools of the Darjeeling hills.

But GJM, backed by the BJP and its Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia, continued to stage protests, reported Indian Express.

The Indian Express, quoted an eyewitness Parjanya Sen, a Darjeeling resident who claimed to be an eyewitness to the violence, saying: “I heard that my friend’s parents were stuck inside Gorkha Bhavan because of the protests and went to check on them. The protests were peaceful. They burnt an effigy of the CM in front of the Bhavan and then suddenly, the police fired tear gas shells… A number of protesters were injured… it was only after the tear gas shelling that they set fire to police vehicles.”

Published: 09-06-2017 11:57

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