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Unrest brewing in Darjeeling hills over rising demands for a separate Gorkhaland
The Darjeeling hills that are supposed to be currently witnessing the peak season attracting tourists from all over the world, who visit to appreciate the rejuvenating beauty of the hills and surroundings, have unfortunately been under the clout of political instability lately.

For last few days, a huge inconvenience has been caused to the tourists and the people of the hills are now finding themselves in troubled waters.

It all started on June 8 when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha called for a protest in objection to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's proposal for making Bengali language compulsory for all the students of West Bengal. The CM, on May 16 had proposed her three-language formula in which students were given the freedom to choose a couple of languages of their choice but Bengali had to be one of the three languages.

This compulsion, however, did not seem to suit the interests of the Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. They have always wanted the creation of a new state comprising of the northern areas of West Bengal including Darjeeling and Dooars. The GJM is popular in the Gorkha region of Darjeeling where one can easily find plenty of speakers of Nepali language.

For the first time in 45 long years, the West Bengal cabinet successfully met at Raj Bhawan in Darjeeling on June 8. Important resolutions were passed in the meeting, one of them being the starting of a new secretariat in Darjeeling. When asked about her idea of making Bengali a compulsory language, CM Mamata Banerjee told the media persons that Bengali will not be made compulsory in the hills.

The situation in the hills became worse when the GJM supporters clashed with the police as they were marching towards the cabinet meeting. They held dharnas and raised slogans against the CM. Reportedly, they even pelted stones causing many casualties. Due to the unrest, the army had to be called to control the unstable situation in the hills. The evening ended with order being restored in the area. On June 9, the GJM called for a 12-hour bandh which was termed illegal by the CM with a warning of taking strict legal action. Despite this, the GJM General Secretary again called for a bandh but this time, for an indefinite one, excluding all the schools, colleges, transports and hotels from its range.

The CM personally walked to the local people of Darjeeling and assured them that the situation was under control and they could freely open their shops. The Mamata Banerjee also oversaw arrangements for the tourists to return to Siliguri.

The bandh began on June 12 and saw normal attendance in the government offices but according to the General Secretary of GJM, the response to the bandh was good. The GJM had called for the shutdown over their demand for Gorkhaland as they wanted to give recognition to the people of Gorkha region.

Although, the GJM expects Central intervention, but according to The Telegraph, the Centre is not thinking of any intervention in Darjeeling at this stage. However, if the West Bengal government wishes to seek some help, the Centre would definitely put its hand forward. On top of that, the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday sought a report from the West Bengal government about the crisis.

The huge impact that the unrest has laid cannot be neglected. Tourism, for obvious reasons, has severely been affected. People dropped their vacation plans and others returned back to their places. Local lives also come under the purview of its impact. The fact has also come forward that the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has suspended the toy train services for an indefinite period because of the unrest. The liquor shops have also been closed and Darjeeling has almost gone dry. This was done because the Morcha supporters who had pelted stones on the police were reportedly drunk. Until normality is restored in the hills, many such decisions can be expected from the government.

Interestingly, this unrest has brought the two rivals Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Gorkha National Liberation Front together to fight for a common cause of demanding Gorkhaland.

Although the protest had initially started because of their opposing views in respect to the CM's idea of making Bengali compulsory, has now stopped at their only sole motive of demanding the creation of a separate state. Both Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Gorkha National Liberation Front have now come together for the first time to pursue the cause forgetting all their past bitterness.

The future of West Bengal, as a state, can be considered to be at stake. Bengal once again seems to be on the verge of facing division, albeit this will not be the first time thatthe cry for a different state has been raised after Telangana. Everything now depends on the collective decisions of these parties and how the government along with the people react to it.

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