Thousands of protesters took out massive rallies on the streets in Darjeeling on Sunday amid tight security and army patrols to observe the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha’s ‘black day’ to protest the death of three Morcha activists in police firing. Led by the GJM activists, the marchers carried the coffins of the three activists who were allegedly shot dead by the security personnel in Darjeeling’s Singmari during the clashes on Saturday. However, there were no reports of fresh clashes between the agitators and the security forces on Sunday. Holding aloft the tricolour, GJM youth members led the rally from Chawk Bazar, the famous lower market area on the Hill cart Road in Darjeeling, and passionately shouted pro-Gorkhaland slogans.
Shouts of “Police go back” and “Gorkhaland-Gorkhaland” reverberated through the picturesque hills of Darjeeling as some Gorkha activists claimed the protest has shifted from the political to the commoners’ movement in the hills.
“There are more than 15,000 people in the rally today. This is not just GJM. People of the hills have come together to demand separate Gorkhaland. Let’s see how far we can go,” a young woman protester said while talking to a television channel.
The mammoth rally was preceded by a silent march of the civilians on Sunday morning. Many Darjeeling residents, including the people from the minority community, joined the march, demanding peace to be restored in the hills.
Terming the situation in the hills as “very very volatile”, GJM leader Amar Singh Rai claimed a separate state of Gorkhaland is the biggest priority for them and rebuffed any possibility of discussions with the Bengal government.
“The situation is still very volatile. A dialogue has to be opened. But I know that our party will not have a dialogue with the TMC-led state government alone,” Rai said.
“We will seek a discussion with the Centre. But only on one agenda — which is a separate state of Gorkhaland,” he added.
The Gorkha activists on Sunday blocked roads and staged demonstrations at many places in the Dooars in support of the GJM’s call for 12-hour strike in the region as the agitation in the hills spilled onto the plains.
The GJM supporters blocked the road near Dalsingpara tea estate in Jaigaon, choking the only road connecting India and Bhutan.
The violence in Drajeeling took an ugly turn in Singmari after a massive rally towards Patlebas was halted by the security forces on Saturday afternoon. The GJM’s supporters attacked security forces with bricks and bottles in a worst violence since the flare-up on June 8.
Scenes across Darjeeling and nearby Ghoom resembled a battlefield with charred buses and police vehicles, and bricks strewn on the road. At least four vehicles, including three of the police, were torched while eight vehicles were vandalised.
The officials claimed that nearly 36 of the security personnel were injured while trying to contain the violence, and denied that they opened fire at the protesters.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also backed the police claims and accused the GJM of having links with terrorists and insurgent groups in the northeast.
She claimed that there is a “deep rooted conspiracy” behind the revival of the Gorkhaland movement.
The GJM announced an indefinite general strike from Monday in the hills encompassing Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and the Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas covering stretches of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar district) to oppose the government’s purported decision to make study of Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools and to press for a separate state of Gorkhaland.