At least five people were killed and over 100 others injured in recent clashes in 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.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha party (GJM, or Gorkha Peoples Liberation Front) subsequently called for an indefinite strike on June 12 – which is still ongoing as of Wednesday, June 21 – 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 and arresting GJM supporters for burning down vehicles and calling on shopkeepers to remain on strike.
Further protests and violence are likely in the coming days and most hotels in the area have been closed.
GJM rallied thousands of demonstrators in Darjeeling's Chowkbazar on Sunday, June 18. Demonstrators marched with the coffins of two victims of the clashes with Indian security forces during previous protests. Security forces also raided GJM party offices, killing three demonstrators in the operation. 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.
Tens of thousands of tourists visiting India’s well-known tea producing region of Darjeeling were left stranded in the hills on June 12 after unrest broke out.
Individuals in Darjeeling are advised to monitor the situation, stay away from all demonstrations, and adhere to instructions issued by the local authorities.