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Poll politics, northeast militants behind Darjeeling violence: West Bengal report

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-06-2017 PTI

New Delhi: Forthcoming elections to hill council and involvement of militants from the northeast have been listed by the West Bengal government among the reasons responsible for the recent violence and indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling.

According to sources in the home ministry, the West Bengal government’s report, received by it on 17 June, stated these reasons among others as factors responsible for the violence in Darjeeling. It said the unrest started after an agitation programme, organised by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on 5 June, led to blocking of the state highways. The situation started to worsen from 8 June onwards after three processions taken out by the GJM at Gorkha Rang Manch bhawan, situated about 100m away from the governor’s house, turned violent.

The agitators pelted stone on the police and there were bomb explosions for two hours in which one state transport bus, eight police vehicles and one police kiosk were burnt, the sources said on Tuesday, citing the report. The agitators, who are mainly from the GJM, are demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland to be carved out of West Bengal. The report suggests that elections to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), that includes Darjeeling and other neighbouring areas, could be a reason behind the ongoing violence, they said.

The Bimal Gurung-headed GJM dominates the GTA. In 2012, the GJM secured all the 45 seats—22 in Darjeeling sub-division, 10 in Kurseong and 13 in Kalimpong—under the GTA. Referring to the recovery of arms and cash, the report suggested involvement of militant groups from the northeast behind the violence in Darjeeling, the sources said. The West Bengal government’s report, which was sent to the home ministry on 17 June, mentions the status as on 13 June. It mainly gives details of the way protests were carried out, the sources said. In all, 24 cases have been registered by the police. A total of 49 security personnel have been injured in the violence, the sources added. The situation is tense but under control, they said. Both union home minister Rajnath Singh and home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi have spoken to the state administration over the issue.

Darjeeling Hills had seen a violent movement for a separate Gorkhaland in the mid 1980s under Subhash Ghisingh. The movement ended with the establishment of a semi-autonomous administrative body in 1988 called the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), which was headed by Ghisingh. As Ghisingh’s influence waned over time, the GJM launched another movement for a separate state of Gorkhaland. In 2011, the GJM signed an agreement with the state and central governments and another semi-autonomous administrative unit, the GTA, was born, replacing the DGHC.

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