The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in West Bengal has devised a two- pronged strategy to quell the ongoing crisis in Darjeeling hills and to isolate the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which is spearheading the agitation. "So many bombs and arms can not be gathered in a day", Banerjee told reporters, adding, "I am ready to sacrifice my life, but I will not allow Bengal to be divided".
For the second successive time this week miscreants struck at the dead of the night to vandalise and ablaze government properties around Darjeeling as the demand for a separate state continued to roil the hill station. However, GJM supporters took out a procession on Saturday; when police stopped them, they hurled stones and bottles.
There was a deep-rooted conspiracy in the Hills she said vowing, "I will never let Darjeeling get split from Bengal till I am alive". Insurgent groups from the Northeast and some other countries are involved. "I have requested that they should not extend any support in Darjeeling", she said.
Singmari area in Darjeeling turned into a battleground as GJM activists threw petrol bombs and stones at the anti-riot police personnel, who fired teargas shells and baton-charged to disperse the mob.
The GJM supporters torched a panchayat office at Mirik, a hydroelectric supply office at Lodhama in Darjeeling and a health centre in Rimbik-Lodhama.
On a day otherwise flawless for a gentle stroll, Singamari, the ground zero of protests, witnessed intense clashes spanning over three hours as several police vehicles were torched and the area that is usually teeming with tourists turned into a virtual battleground.
The GJM has ruled out holding talks with the state authorities, saying it will only negotiate with India's central government.
On the other hand, the CM is trying to break the Gorkhaland agitation with the help of the chiefs of 17 ethnic development boards that she formed over the past six years.
However, GJM supporters violated the orders and took a procession.
The hill town might once again be on the boil as, according to GJM sources, thousands of Morcha activists would march with the three bodies from Darjeeling's Chowk Bazar on Sunday afternoon while the police have denied permission to any such rallies in the hills.
A Union home ministry official said the Centre was treading with caution because of two factors.
The committee will convey to the people chief minister's message that the government is willing to sit for talks once the strike is called off, he added. She said tourism is the backbone of the Hills' economy and if the tourists' footfalls decrease, the Hills would starve.
The GJM announced an indefinite general strike from last Monday in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and the Dooars to oppose the government's purported decision to make study of Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools - despite the government clarification this would not be applicable in this region - and to press for a separate state of Gorkhaland.