Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday appealed to the citizens of Darjeeling to remain calm while urging them to shun violence. The home minister's request came as Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung said the protest would continue. The GJM chief said the situation would worsen if police tried to intervene.
"I appeal to the people living in Darjeeling and nearby areas to remain calm and peaceful. Nobody should resort to violence. In a democracy like India resorting to violence would never help in finding a solution. Every issue can be resolved through mutual dialogue," Singh said on Twitter.
"All parties and stakeholders should resolve their differences and misunderstandings through dialogue in amicable environment," the home minister said adding he had spoken to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to take stock of the situation in Darjeeling. He also spoke to her on Saturday and asked her to take all possible measures to restore peace in the hills.
The GJM intensified the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland by announcing an indefinite strike in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and the Dooars from June 12 after the state government decided to make Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools. Even though the government clarified Bengali would be an optional subject, Gurung's GJM refused to back down and revived their protest for a separate state.
Protest rally with bodies of deceased agitators
The GJM carried out a silent rally with the coffins of four protesters, who were killed during clashes with the police. Thousands of protesters assembled at Chowkbazaar carrying black flags and the Tricolour raising slogans demanding the police and the army personnel be "immediately removed" from Darjeeling.
The situation turned violent after four activists of the GJM were killed and several others injured in clashes with the police in Darjeeling. An officer from the India Reserve Battalion (IRB) was also injured and is in a critical condition. The GJM claimed its supporters died in police firing but CM Banerjee denied all allegations saying the GJM had links with terrorists and insurgent groups in the northeast — a claim that GJM chief Gurung has repeatedly denied.
On Saturday night, GJM supporters torched a couple of panchayat offices at Alay and Dalim in Gorubathan block in Kalimpong district.
Indian Army, paramilitary forces and the police have been deployed across the hill station to bring the situation under control. Vehicles were off the roads while shops and business establishments stayed shut.
Mamata Banerjee spreading "white lies": Gurung
GJM chief Gurung on Sunday called Banerjee's allegation-- that GJM has links with terrorists and insurgent groups in the Northeast-- as "white lies".
"Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said we have a link with north-east based terrorists group, which is totally wrong. She is trying to divert our movement and mislead people. We will continue with our movement. We will bring a mass rally for our three members who were killed. If the police tries to stop us, then it will create more problem," Gurung was quoted by ANI as saying.
Gurung, who is currently in hiding, also appealed to the Trinamool Congress workers in the hills to join the movement.
GJM slams Modi government for ignoring crisis
The GJM on Sunday slammed the Narendra Modi-led government for ignoring the Gorkhaland crisis and also questioned BJP MP SS Ahluwalia's absence, who has not visited the hill station even once since the protest began.
The GJM made it clear it does not want to hold talks with the Mamata Banerjee-led government and is only interested in directly negotiating the Centre. The BJP is an ally of the GJM. Banerjee had offered to hold talks if the GJM called off the protest.
Banerjee has called an all-party meeting in Siliguri on June 22 to discuss the ongoing crisis in the hills.