Darjeeling violence: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has rejected allegations that the state government had made any proposal to make Bengali language compulsory in government schools in Darjeeling and other parts of the hills. The Chief Minister categorically said that this is optional not compulsory, according to ANI report. The state government did not prevent students in the hills to study in Hindi, English and Nepali, she said, adding that Bengali will be taught as fourth language in the schools of the hills. CM Banerjee also said she felt that there should not be any issue with the decision. Exhorting youths hailing from hills to learn basics of Bengali language, she said her government would not make the language mandatory. Taking a dig at erstwhile ruling party in the state CPIM, CM Banerjee said that ruling TMC dispensation had never asked students not to study in English. We have a three-language formula in West Bengal, she said. She underlined that learning the Bengali language will only help youths from hills to secure jobs in places like Kolkata, Siliguri and other areas of the state. Don’t you want to go to Kolkata for jobs? Won’t you go to Siliguri? Don’t you want to go to rest of the West Bengal? If you want to then you have to learn basic of Bengali language, she said.
Meanwhile, a 12-hour-long strike was called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) today. CM Banerjee has described it as illegal and warned that the government would take legal action against those who participate in it. The strike, however, almost stalled life in the hills this morning with most of the shops, eateries and markets remaining closed and vehicles off the roads, according to PTI report.
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A political slugfest had erupted over the issue with GJM chief Bimal Gurung projecting himself as the chief minister of the hills. He also challenged CM Mamata Banerjee to stop the agitation in the area. “As the chief minister of West Bengal she is trying to show her strength. But she must not forget that I am an elected member of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). I am the chief minister of the hills, I challenge her to stop the agitation in the hills,” Gurung was quoted as saying by PTI.
Gurung also said that he would take up the issue with the central government. He will also discuss about the deployment of Army and the alleged police atrocities in the hills. Two columns of Army were deployed in Darjeeling town yesterday after GJM supporters clashed with the police, damaged police vehicles and set some of them ablaze while CM Banerjee was holding a cabinet meeting there. The police had resorted to baton charge and fired tear gas shells to disperse the agitators who tried to march to the venue of the state cabinet meeting yesterday.