LANGUAGE ISSUE: Gurung ups ante in language fight

Write: Vivek Chhetri and Bireswar Banerjee

Bimal Gurung yesterday said there would be repercussions if the administration indulged in excesses during the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s processions next week and asked tour operators to evacuate visitors from the hills in 30 minutes.

The Morcha had announced processions with black flags from June 4 to 9 to protest the state government’s move to make Bengali compulsory at schools.

The marches will synchronise with Mamata Banerjee’s visit to the hills next week.

Addressing Morcha supporters at Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan in Darjeeling, Gurung said: “The hills could be on fire if the district administration indulges in excesses during our protest marches. In such a situation, I would tell those involved in the tourism industry to be prepared to evacuate visitors within half-an-hour. The situation could be such that nothing could be spared.”

Gurung said the high tourist footfall in Darjeeling at present was because the Morcha was maintaining peace. “The town is teeming with tourists and this is not because of Mamata Banerjee. The tourists have come here because we have maintained peace. I have not done anything different but it is Mamata Banerjee who is now trying to create unrest by trampling on our sentiment. If any untoward incident takes place, Mamata Banerjee should be solely held responsible.”

He went on: “There is a limit to everything. We are not against Bengali language or Bengali community. What we are saying is ‘Please do not impose a language on us’. Let it be a choice for those who want to study the language.”

The Morcha had called the closure of educational institutions in the hills yesterday and today on the language issue. Most schools could not conduct classes as hardly any student turned up.

The chief minister is scheduled to visit Mirik on June 5 and hold a cabinet meeting at Raj Bhavan in Darjeeling on June 8. The Morcha has announced the protest marches with black flags across the hills during Mamata’s tour of the hills.

Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, said police had given the party permission to hold a march from Ghoom to Darjeeling, a distance of 8km, on Sunday. Gurung said even if permission was not granted for the processions for subsequent days, “we will go ahead”.

Gurung said the ongoing movement on the language issue could continue till the Gorkhaland demand was fulfiled.

“They have started slapping cases even on academicians and teachers who came here not to support the Morcha but their community. This movement will go on till we achieve Gorkhaland and in days to come, GTA Sabha members might have to resign,” said the Morcha president.

“They might be thinking that if we are jailed, everything will be fine. I will prefer jungles to jail. We still believe in democratic protest though we are prepared to face anything.”

State education minister Partha Chatterjee yesterday iterated in Siliguri that the three-language policy would be implemented across the state.

“The chief minister has categorically said those who are studying Nepali or Hindi as the first language can carry on with it. We have never said Bengali has to be the first language. We have only said of three languages, Bengali should be one. This is followed even by the CBSE,” he said.

The minister alleged that the Morcha was resorting to agitation after realising that its support base was dwindling in the hills. “They should speak about development and other good things for the hills,” said Chatterjee.

[Via: Telegraph]

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