The indefinite general strike called for by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha party (GJM, or Gorkha Peoples Liberation Front) entered its eighth day on Thursday, June 22. Everyday life continues to be severely crippled by the strike, but GJM offered a 12-hour window on Friday, June 23, to evacuate students from schools affected by the unrest.
Ambulance services are suspended as ambulance operators fear harassment. Local television connections have been interrupted since Thursday morning while internet services remain suspended for the fifth consecutive day.
Protests and violence are likely in the coming days. Most hotels in the area have been closed.
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.
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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