Kolkata: Thousands of members of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) marched across the hills in West Bengal on Monday and clashed with police to protest the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision to make Bengali mandatory in all government schools till Class 10.
A Bill to enforce the decision is scheduled to be tabled before the state assembly in the ongoing session. To protest the move, GJM supporters burnt an effigy of Banerjee in the hills leading to a few clashes, hours before she holds a public meeting in Mirik at 5 pm.
A large number of policemen and combat forces have now been deployed at all the major intersections to prevent any untoward incident, said officials.
Speaking to News18, GJM General Secretary, Roshan Giri said, “We are not going to support the autocratic attitude of Mamata Banerjee. This is an attempt to crush our Nepali language.”
Ever since the state government announced on May 16 that Bengali will be made compulsory, several demonstrations have been held. Recently, the GJM forcibly closed down nearly 986 schools and colleges in the Hills to protest the imposition of Bengali.
“There are 770 primary, 130 higher secondary, 50 ICSE schools and nearly 10 colleges in the hills. If the state government will continue with their ignorant attitude towards Nepali language, then they will be responsible for the law and order problem in the hills,” Giri said.
Trinamool Congress minister Arup Biswas has clarified that schools falling within the jurisdiction of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) will be exempt from the compulsory provision of learning Bengali, but this has done little to assuage the protesters.
“There are large Gorkha people who are living in other parts of North Bengal and that areas are not under GTA’s gambit. There are Rajbangshis who are fighting for decades for recognition of their language, Kantapuri. Now the state government is forcing them to learn Bengali. What kind logic is it?” Giri asked.
He said that on Thursday, more than 50,000 people participated in protests at Ghoom, Kurseong, Mirik, Darjeeling and Kalimpong. “Our various groups, including the student wing, women’s wing and the youth wing gathered at Mall road,” Giri said.