Darjeeling remained on the edge on Sunday as thousands of protesters assembled at the central Chowkbazar carrying the body of a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha activist, who was killed during clashes with police, and raised slogans demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.
Security personnel in large numbers were deployed in the hill district of West Bengal after widespread clashes between GJM activists and the police were witnessed on Saturday.
The protesters, also carrying black flags and the Tricolour, assembled at the Chowkbazar. They shouted slogans demanding that the police and security personnel be “immediately removed” from Darjeeling.
“We think the police and security personnel should be immediately removed from Darjeeling to create conducive environment for talks. The government should allow us to carry out peaceful and democratic agitation,” Darjeeling MLA Amar Rai of the GJM told reporters.
The GJM has claimed that two of their supporters were shot dead by police in Singmari on Saturday. The police rejected the allegations of firing by its personnel, and said one person was killed during the clashes.
This was the first death since violent protests returned to Darjeeling on June 8, after a gap of a few years.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had on Saturday said that the ongoing agitation in Darjeeling hills was a “deep-rooted conspiracy” supported by the insurgent groups of the Northeast and some foreign countries.
The GJM had rubbished the allegation made by Banerjee, saying that she was trying to malign the Gorkhas fighting for their identity.
The police, who have been on high alert after Saturday’s violence and arson, conducted route marches with the army in several parts of the hills.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday appealed to protesters not to resort to violence and, instead, hold dialogue to resolve any issue.
He said resorting to violence would never help them in finding a solution and asked the people living there to remain calm and peaceful.
“All concerned parties and stakeholders should resolve their differences and misunderstandings through dialogue in amicable environment,” Singh said.
In a democracy like India resorting to violence would never help in finding a solution, he said, emphasising that “every issue can be resolved through mutual dialogue”.
“I appeal to the people living in Darjeeling and nearby areas to remain calm and peaceful. Nobody should resort to violence,” the home minister said in a series of tweets.
Singh also spoke to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and discussed with her the situation prevailing there.
“She (Banerjee) has apprised me of the situation prevailing in Darjeeling,” he said.