West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is in Darjeeling for a cabinet meeting on June 8
Black flag protests greeted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as she drove into Darjeeling town on Monday night. And today there was no let-up in protests either from 11 this morning. Angry processions were held at Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong towns with protesters shouting, "Go back Mamata" and "We want Gorkhaland."
The Trinamool Congress too held protests, demanding the arrest of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha demonstrators who allegedly tore down Mamata Banerjee posters and banners and also burnt an effigy of the chief minister.
The reason for the agitation was Bengali language being made compulsory in schools from Class 1 to 10. Mamata Banerjee had announced this decision last week. But yesterday, at a speech at Mirik at Darjeeling's foothills, she appeared to do a roll-back and said Bengali would not be a must in Darjeeling.
But Gorkha Janmukti Morcha wants a written assurance as Ms Banerjee also mentioned that Bengali could be learnt as a fourth language. Morcha chief Bimal Gurung claimed Mamata Banerjee had not kept her word on many issues in the past, so a written assurance was a must.
Without naming Bimal Gurung, Ms Banerjee also said a special audit would be held of funds given to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), the partially autonomous body that is dominated by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha which has been campaigning for a separate state for years now.
At 11 this morning, men and women in traditional Gorkha attire gathered at Chowrasta in the heart of Darjeeling town and marched to Chowkbazar with black flags, shouting slogans for the separate state of Gorkhaland.
The chief minister is in Darjeeling for a cabinet meeting on June 8. She has announced that she would hold two cabinet meetings in the hills in a year. That has not gone down well with the Morcha which runs the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, a partially autonomous body.
The GTA may be at the root of the worsening ties between Trinamool and the Morcha. The GTA's term ends in August and fresh elections will be held to it. Mamata Banerjee is making a determined bid for it after Trinamool's victory in civic elections in Mirik.
Education minister Partha Chatterjee said Mr Bimal Gurung was using the language issue to create needless trouble to retain his fragile hold on the hills of Darjeeling.
Mamata Banerjee has visited Darjeeling several times in the last six years as chief minister. Some put the figure at 30. But this is the first time that she has received a black flag reception. "Her Bengali compulsory issue has backfired badly in the hills," a Darjeeling resident said. "It has given the Gorkhaland demand a new fillip."