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India: Gorkha protests enter tenth day in Darjeeling June 24 /update 3

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activists march through Darjeeling on June 24; internet and television services remain suspended

04 Jul 09:35 AM UTC
TIMEFRAME expected from 6/24/2017, 12:00 AM until 6/27/2017, 11:59 PM (Asia/Kolkata). COUNTRY/REGION Darjeeling (West Bengal)

Event

An indefinite strike called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha party (GJM, or Gorkha Peoples Liberation Front) continued into its tenth day in Darjeeling on Saturday, June 24. GJM supporters blocked vehicles along National Highway 10 on Friday, June 23, and continued to caused disruptions on Saturday. On Friday, students stranded in several boarding schools were evacuated after the GJM provided a six-hour window to allow them to leave the area. Internet and television services remain suspended in Darjeeling.

Ambulance services are also suspended as ambulance operators fear harassment. Protests and violence are likely in the coming days. Most hotels in the area have been closed.

Context

At least five people were killed and over 100 others injured in recent clashes in the Darjeeling region of West Bengal state. The government announcement that Bengali, the state official language, would become a compulsory subject in schools across the state, prompting unrest among the ethnic Gorkha people. Gorkha leaders are arguing that they are not ethnically Bengali but Nepali, and should not be forced to speak Bengali. GJM subsequently called for an indefinite strike as well as for the creation of a new state, Gorkhaland.

Tensions remain high in the region, with the West Bengal police raiding opposition offices, arresting GJM supporters for burning down vehicles, and calling on shopkeepers to remain on strike. Violent repression is thought to be an indication that Mamata Banergee, chief minister of West Bengal state, is implementing a blanket ban on separatist activity within the state.

Advice

Individuals in Darjeeling are advised to monitor the situation, stay away from all demonstrations, and adhere to instructions issued by the local authorities.

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