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Darjeeling bishop backs Gorkhaland stir, prays for peace 

By Matters India Reporter

Darjeeling: Bishop Stephen Lepcha of Darjeeling has urged his people to pray for peace and joy to return to the hilly region.

“We have a long standing culture of living in peace. We hope and pray that this peace and joy return to Darjeeling hills,” the bishop said in a June 20 message to media persons.

However, the bishop has expressed solidarity with the Gorkha people who have demanded a separate state.

“Our aspirations are the same as that of Gorkhas from time immemorial. We have been the integral part of expressing these aspirations and have done so whole heartedly since its beginning. We pray that our desire may be realized soon,” the prelate added.

Violence has gripped Darjeeling, the northern region of West Bengal and one India’s most popular hill stations, after the state’s Mamata Banerjee government decided to impose Bengali as a compulsory subject for all school students in the state.

Spearheading the stir is the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s (GJM, Gorkha people’s liberation front) that wants a separate Gorkha state.

Protesters set ablaze government buildings and vehicles and a World Heritage Site train station in Darjeeling on June 15.

The flare-up came shortly after police raided an office of the GJM in Darjeeling and claimed to have seized arms, explosives and a night vision equipment.

The GJM, which rules the hill districts under the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), called an indefinite shutdown to protest the raid.

Bishop Lepcha expressed “deep sorry at the violence, injuries and the loss of lives” in the hills following the agitation and police crackdown. “Our heartfelt condolence to all the families of those who are martyrs,” the bishop’s message added.

The Catholic bishop also asserted that Christians in the region belong to the Gorkha tribe and that they shared the community’s aspirations and demands.

Bishop Lepcha also clarified that the Christian community does not find a need to reassert its stand on the issue every time the Gorkha agitation takes a new turn.

The bishop announced a special Mass at 7 am on June 21 at the cathedral church. He also plans to release a statement to the media on behalf of the Catholics in the diocese. “I felt that it is an urgent need for us Catholic community to share our views through media,” he told Matters India.

The prelate has also urged the Catholic communities in region to organize special prayers for the Gorkha cause.

Meanwhile the protesters on June 20 decided to continue the strike indefinitely and boycott elections of GTA in future. They have reiterated that they will end the strike only if the state government withdraws armed forces from the region.

The protestors have formed an All India Coordination Committee on Gorkhaland to take the stir nationwide and appointed Tilak Kumar Roka as its coordinator .

They have also decided to hold talks on Gorkhaland only with the federal government.

Meanwhile the Salesian-managed Radio Salesian 90.8 FM Boice of the Hills is putting out messages from the principal of Salesian College Sonada and other leaders soliciting peace and non-violence. They have also urged people to avoid rumors

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6 Responses to Darjeeling bishop backs Gorkhaland stir, prays for peace

  1. Kalappura Thomas

    It is strange that all demands for a separate State in any part of our country are viewed with suspicion and aversion. Is it not good to discuss with people ? What will happen if a separate State is granted? Did we not form Utarkhand, jarkhand ?Heavens did not fall, but people got happiness and satisfaction. The politicians should not think they are the owners of the country or part of it. Dialogue should be resorted to without bias or conditions.

     
  2. Thanks pan vaidhyar

    M.G. is very right.
    The net result of hindutva India is to divide Our nation into separate independent sovereignties which was other wise nurtured by First Indian prime minister. The bishop of Darjeeling is bold enough and strong enough to say truth in right time. We need in India like this bishops.

     
  3. chhotebhai

    The bishop and the radio station praying for peace is fine. But the bishop making a political statement in favour of creating a new State is uncalled for. Sure we need to respect and promote every culture and language, but forming new States based on ethnicity is not the solution. By that criterion we would have some 500 States in India.

    Bishops should be a moral voice, but should steer clear of politics.

     
  4. M.G.Selvin Raj SJ

    Language suppose to unite people but at times the same language is used as a tool to divide people. We can propose to someone to learn a new language, but it should not be imposed. Unfortunately in a democratic country the politicians to retain their power look for majority. By imposing one language for all they try to gain majority in their political arena. Accepting diversity and plurality presupposes unity among all. But one who imposes uniformity divides the people who are well integrated in our Indian soil. We need to protect and promote the local language and culture of the people. I appreciate the stand taken by Bishop Stephan Lepcha and the Catholic community of his diocese.

     
  5. Dr Roy Chwdhury

    Kudos to Matters India for reporting timely news from Darjeeling. Friends living in Darjeeling town tell that internet services have been shut down from last Saturday. People living in Darjeeling town especially the Kacheri area (court house and offices of the administration) are not even allowed to open their windows opening on to the road as armed forces personnel have taken up positions to prevent untoward incidents with the on-going protests staged daily…

     
  6. Gabriel Tirkey, sj

    Radio Salesian 90.8 FM could be an Ambassador of PEACE in the hills of Darjeeling. I appreciate their effort on this regard. Congrats! Pray for peace in the region.

     
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