ARJEELING, India, Feb. 7, Reuter: Thousands of Gurkhas demanding a separate state in northeast Indian blocked the road and shouted slogans at Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi during his one day visit today. Demonstrators waving Gurkha flags held up Gandhi’s motorcade from the airport to Darjeeling where Gandhi met Gurkha leader, Subhash Geishing.
Leaders of Gandhi’s Congress (1) party said seven of its members were injured in clashes with the Gurkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) supporters just before Gandhi’s arrival.
Gandhi made his visit less than a week after Geishing ordered a two month suspension of a GNLF campaign to carve a separate state known as Gurkhaland out of West Bengal state.
Nearly 60 people were killed last year in the campaign, many in clashes between GNLF supporters and members of West Bengal’s ruling communist party.
Gandhi, who opposes a separate Gurkha state, told reporters Geishing had given him a list of demands during their brief meeting.
The conflict involves the linguistic claims and other grievances of some 900,000 Gurkhas of Nepali origin who have Bengali dominated state. The Prime Minister has said the campaign is not secessionist. He has called on the state government in Calcutta to talk to the Gurkhas.
But West Bengal’s Chief Minjyoti Basu, who accompanied Gandhi’ today, has called the movement antinational. State officials have accused the Congress party of trying to weaken the communist party ahead of state elections next month.
Basu said his rejection of Gurkhaland was not negotiable. “I do not want India to break up”, he told Reuters.
Article extracted from this publication >> February 13, 1987