Siliguri shuts down over demand for separate Gorkhaland

Siliguri (West Bengal, India), Jan.18 : A group that has been spearheading a movement for the creation of a separate Gorkhaland state, engineered a shutdown of all working establishments and educational institutions in Siliguri on Saturday.

The Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) or Movement for a Separate Gorkhaland called a shutdown in the area after Friday’’s violence in a nearby area in which a number of their activists were injured.

Gorkhas, who are ethnic Nepalis, are demanding a separate state of “Gorkhaland” be carved out of West Bengal to protect their culture and heritage.

But some tribesmen under the banner of Adibashi Vikash Parishanga (AVP) or Scheduled Tribes Development Council oppose the move.

The GJMM accused the AVP and the ruling Communists of targeting their cadre in the nearby locality on Friday.

“Yesterday the women cell of GJMM (The Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha) had organised a rally in the Nagardatta locality. Aadivaasi Vikas Manch (the Scheduled Tribes Development Council), CPI Cadres (activists of state ruling Communist Party of India) and administration disturbed the activist. They also pelted stones on them in which many members of the cell were injured and some of them were hospitalised. The day before, we had blocked the highway and now we are on indefinite strike since morning,” said Prakash Bomjan, secretary of GJMM at nearby Kalijhora area.

Officials said the violence was brought under control.

“Violence broke out in Salugara, Darjeeling, between two groups against a strike called by GJMM (The Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha) this afternoon. Police were deployed to counter the situation. The condition is now under control. Police will be patrolling the area throughout the night,” Saroj Kumar Mitra, deputy superintendent of police, Darjeeling, said.

At least 1,200 people died in the first Gorkhaland campaign in the 1980s, but protests ended a few years later after Gorkha leaders accepted limited autonomy.

The Gorkha population in West Bengal is around one million out of 80 million people, although the overwhelming majority are concentrated in Darjeeling.