Gokhaland protests in Darjeeling continue as the indefinite strike called by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha entered its eighth day on Monday.
As security forces patrolled the streets in the hills GJM supporters blocked national highway 31A at some places to protest the death of three activists on Saturday. Protesters also burnt effigies of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and marched on the streets of Chowkbazar area shouting slogans against the state government and the chief minister. Internet services too remained suspended for the second day.
“Three of our activists were killed. We are ready to give our lives but will not stop protesting till we get Gorkhaland,” Sirish Pradhan, a GJM worker, said.
Security forces patrolled the streets as the situation remained tense. Several tourists remained stranded in the hill town.
“The situation is still very tense. Since morning there has been no incident of violence. But we are on high alert and are prepared for any eventuality,” said a senior police officer.
Police barricades were placed in front of the government offices and various entry exit points of the hills while Rapid Action Force (RAF) and a sizable number of women police personnel were also deployed to maintain calm.
Except medicine shops, all others shops and hotels were closed in the hills.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged all concerned parties and stakeholders to attend an all-party meeting called by the state government in Siliguri on June 22 on the prevailing situation in Darjeeling.
She urged the people to maintain peace and said, “Violence cannot be a solution to any problem and only talks can solve it”.
Earlier, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had appealed to the protesters not to resort to violence and instead, hold dialogue to resolve any issue.
GJM expressed their “displeasure” with the Centre and questioned the absence of BJP MP from Darjeeling S S Ahluwalia at the time of crisis.
“The role of alliance partner BJP is very unfortunate and very disappointing. We had expected something positive from the part of the Central government. We feel we are being used as pawns by the Centre and the state,” Darjeeling MLA and senior GJM leader Amar Singh Rai said.
GJM is an ally of BJP and it was with the help of GJM that BJP won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat twice in 2009 and 2014.
“We are ready to sit with the Centre anytime. But with the state, the condition would be that they withdraw all forces and allow normalcy to return as a confidence building measure. And we will sit for dialogue with Gorkhaland as the sole agenda,” Rai said.
(With inputs from PTI)