Darjeeling, July 3 (IANS) Despite criticism from various quarters for involving kids in the ongoing agitation in the north Bengal hills, several children with their parents again joined a Darjeeling rally on Monday, demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.
Sporadic incidents of violence were reported in the hills, with Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) activists allegedly setting fire to a hired police vehicle, as the indefinite shutdown called by the party paralysed normal life for the 18th day on Monday.
The GJM leadership also claimed that members of 16 welfare boards set up by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for various hill communities had resigned en masse, expressing support for Gorkhaland.
GJM Assistant General Secretary Binoy Tamang said, “All members of the 16 community welfare boards had publicly declared resignation from their respective boards in support of Gorkhaland.”
Led by GJM activists, the kids and teenagers carried banners and festoons with pro-Gorkhaland slogans and rallied from the District Magistrate’s office to Chawk Bazar in Darjeeling.
Denying allegations of forcing the kids to join the rallies, the Morcha leadership claimed there had been spontaneous participation from all around the hills. They also claimed that several parents had appealed to the party leadership to include their kids in the Gorkhaland movement.
“Everyone in the hills has just one thing in mind, Gorkhaland. Even the small kids here demand Gorkhaland. They are spontaneously joining the movement,” GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri claimed while leading a rally here.
Echoing Giri’s comments, a woman Gorkha activist, who brought her child to the rally, said: “Gorkhaland is for everyone. If the demand of Gorkhaland is fulfilled, it would be good for the future of all these kids.”
The West Bengal government, however, strongly condemned the GJM, terming the move as unconstitutional and against the guidelines of the court.
“The kids should not be brought out to the streets in the name of a democratic movement. The comments from the GJM leaders are highly irresponsible. By involving the kids, they are breaking the law and acting against the regulations of the Supreme Court and high court,” state Tourism Minister Gautam Deb said.
The GJM involved the local children in the pro-Gorkhaland agitation for the first time by rallying them on the streets on June 28.
Several kids were seen walking with shackles and chains on their arms and legs in a symbolic protest against the state government’s alleged high-handedness. Many of them had pro-Gorkhaland slogans written on their body.
Multiple rallies were taken out throughout the day in various parts of the hills amid strict police vigil and security arrangements. Two rallies were organised by the women and student wings of GJM in Darjeeling hill town on Monday morning.