Darjeeling Unrest: Gorkha Youth Leaders Threaten Telangana-Style Stir

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Darjeeling: The Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha (GJYM) leaders have threatened to launch a Telangana-style movement that will include self-immolation and indefinite hunger strike to mount pressure on the Centre and West Bengal government for statehood to the Darjeeling region.

They said at least 15 people set themselves on fire between December 2009 and March 2012 to press for a separate state of Telangana to be carved out of Andhra Pradesh. The new state was eventually born in June 2014.

“When the state and the central governments are not listening to our peaceful agitation, we will be compelled to go for indefinite fast and self-immolation to demand statehood,” Prakash Gurung, the GJYM president, said on Monday.

The GJYM is the young wing of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which is spearheading the struggle for Gorkhaland. The long-drawn Gorkhaland stir has recorded a self-immolation before when Mangal Singh Rajput set himself on fire in Kalimpong town in 2013 and died.

The statehood movement flared up again when police and Gorkha supporters clashed in Darjeeling on June 8 before chief minister Mamata Banerjee and more than two dozen ministers over the government’s decision to make Bengali a mandatory subject in all schools in the state.

The majority of people in the Darjeeling hills speak Nepali and they opposed the move. The situation deteriorated when three GJM supporters were killed in police firing on June 17 in restive Darjeeling. The killings and subsequent clashes led to a shutdown in the hills.

The GJM leaders announced on Monday a 12-hour relaxation to their indefinite strike since June 15 to protest against police atrocities in the hills. The unrest also put the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in uncertainty as the GJM, which rules the quasi-autonomous administrative agency for the hills, resigned from it.

“I strongly feel the GTA was a stumbling block to our dream of Gorkhaland,” Gurung said. He warned against people trying to malign the movement. “Different organisations brought out a rally in Siliguri on Sunday against Gorkhaland and some miscreants attacked three vehicles. These outfits are trying to brand our movement as undemocratic,” he said.

Gurung demanded the state government to take steps to stop the situation from triggering clashes between communities.