'Dialogue, Not Violence': Rajnath Singh's Message To Darjeeling

Uneasy calm in Darjeeling where an indefinite strike called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha is on. After Saturday's violence, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has spoken twice to Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

Union home minister Rajnath Singh asked people of Darjeeling to maintain calm.

Darjeeling, West Bengal: Union home minister Rajnath Singh today spoke to Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for an update on the situation in Darjeeling. After several violence-filled days, Darjeeling remained calm on Sunday, with hundreds of police and army men posted on its roads.

A silent march to the centre of the popular hill town, called by Bimal Gurung, was held this morning. The protesters carried the bodies of three men. The Morcha claims the men were party activists who had died in the police firing on Saturday. The police rejected allegations that its personnel opened fire, and said one person was killed during the clashes.

Over the past few weeks, the morcha's protests against Bengali made compulsory in schools had blown into a full-fledged demand for statehood, catapulting Darjeeling into violence and the state into a political turmoil.

Appealing to all stakeholders to solve the situation through "dialogue and not violence" Mr Singh said, " In a democracy like India resorting to violence will never help in finding a solution. Every issue can be resolved through mutual dialogue".

The Morcha - which is spearheading the statehood agitation in the hills -- has refused to hold any discussion with the Bengal government, but says it is "comfortable" holding talks with the BJP-led government at the Centre.

The popular hill-town witnessed widespread clashes between the protesters and the police on Saturday in which one person was killed and 35 security personnel were injured. These were the first deaths since violence started afresh after years in Darjeeling.

Ms Banerjee, who had spoken to Mr Singh yesterday as well, called the events in Darjeeling a "deep rooted controversy".  "So many bombs and arms cannot be gathered in a day," Ms Banerjee said. "I am ready to sacrifice my life, but I will not allow Bengal to be divided," she said.