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Darjeeling protests highlights| Cops, TMC ransacking our home: Bimal Gurung’s wife

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha stocked weapons to resist and attack the police, says official.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2017 07:24 IST
Pramod Giri and Avijit Ghosal
A car at Bimal Gurung’s house set on fire on Thursday.
A car at Bimal Gurung’s house set on fire on Thursday.(HT Photo)

Darjeeling braced for more violence on Thursday morning as the police raided the offices of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the hill party called for an indefinite strike in protest.

The raid came as an indication that chief minister Mamata Banerjee was ready to crush the protests demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland that has triggered violence in the northern Bengal hills.

Here are the highlights of the day:

3:25pm: “There are reports (of GJM supporters) firing at police,” says Siddhanath Gupta, additional director general, establishment, who was in Darjeeling.

2:55pm: Home ministry seeks report from West Bengal government on Gorkhaland issue, asks state government to maintain law and order, reports ANI.

2:45pm: Gurung’s wife says police and ruling party supporters are ransacking their house. However, she did not reveal where she was, or where her husband was.

2:30pm: Police and Trinamool Congress supporters entered our house and set a car on fire around 2pm today, says Asha Gurung, GJM president Bimal Gurung’s wife.

2:15pm: District magistrate of Darjeeling Joyoshi Dasgupta leaves for Patlabash to take stock of the situation.

2:10pm: “They found a few bows and arrows, rusted spades and fire crackers - all tools found in local households. We were in the process of organising our traditional archery competition,” says GJM.

2:00pm: GJM trying to mislead people by claiming that weapons seized were part of the traditional local culture, says Anuj Sharma, additional director general (law and order) at the state secretariat. “It is not true. The weapons were stockpiled to resist and attack the police.”

1:50pm: “It is time for all parties to restore peace. GJM can carry out a democratic movement but their intention is different. What was the purpose of keeping so many bows and arrows and a huge amount of money in their office?” asks Rajen Mukhia, TMC hill district committee president.

Cash seized from the GJM office. (Bikram Sashanker/HT)

1:45pm: GJM supporters surround the police force near Gurung’s residence, throw stones at them, say eyewitnesses.

1:40pm: Student, youth and women wings of GJM about to take out a rally in Kurseong.

1:27pm: “We will intensify our movement against police atrocities,” says Suva Pradhan, chairman of Kalimpong municipality.

1:25pm: GJM councillor from ward 16 of Kalimpong municipality Barun Bhujel arrested.

1:15pm: Negotiations should start immediately to defuse the crisis. Congress is ready to support and participate in such discussions to restore peace in the hills, says West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Om Prakash Mishra.

1:14pm: Police reinforcements head towards Patlabash as protestors vandalise police officials’ vehicles

1:11pm: Police resort to lathicharge, continue firing teargas shells at protestors.

GJM supporters set fire to a vehicle near Patlabash. (Bikram Sashanker/HT Photo)

1:10pm: Some police officials injured in stone pelting.

1:05pm: GJM supporters set fire to a vehicle near Patlabash.

1:00pm: CPI(M) politburo member and Lok Sabha MP Md Salim says the chief minister should immediately convene an all-party meeting. “She should shed her ego and initiate the process of negotiation involving the Centre, state government and GJM.”

GJM protestors and police officials near GJM office. (Bikram Sashanker/HT Photo)

12:50pm: GJM supporters, police clash near the GJM office in Patlabash. GJM supporters throw stones at officials while they retaliate by firing tear gas shells.

12:42pm: GJM supporters vandalise the car of officer-in-charge of Pedong police outpost.

12:37pm: “The hills were quiet for the last 7 years. There was no bandh. The CM triggered the unrest by imposing Bengali and by using police to enable Trrinamool Congress to capture the hills,” says Rahul Sinha, national secretary of BJP.

12:35pm: “We do not support the indefinite bandh in the hills. We will make our position clear in the all-party meeting on June 20,” says Mahendra Chettri, secretary of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF).

12:30pm: GJM leader Binod Pradhan arrested from Pedong for his involvement in setting fire to the police outpost.

12:28pm:The whereabouts of Bimal Gurung are not clear to anybody.

12:25pm: Supporters of GJM women’s wing have started agitations in Kalimpong.

12:20pm: As soon as the bandh call was given, shops and offices in Darjeeling quickly downed their shutters. The impact of the bandh was also felt in the towns of Kalimpong and Kurseong.

12:16pm: Traffic thinning on the streets of Darjeeling.

12:10pm: GJM supporters have set fire to Pedong police outpost about 17 km away from Kalimpong town, the second biggest town of the hills.

12:00pm: “GJM leaders said on Wednesday they will strike back if police take any action. Therefore, we conducted the raids,” said Darjeeling police super Akhilesh Chaturvedi.

What is the crisis about

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) – an ally of the BJP – and other hill parties are demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland, which has led to unrest in Darjeeling. There have been protests, and a strike was called for by Bimal Gurung on Thursday, after the police raided the main GJM office.

Weapons seized from the GJM office. (Bikram Sashanker/HT)

The Gorkhaland demand is politically fueled - one that Gurung hopes use to his advantage against Mamata Banerjee.

The GJM has been pushing for Gorkhaland for a long time. This proposed area of Gorkhaland includes many other regions of the plains like Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, and some parts of Bengal, in addition to Darjeeling.

A large number of people, however, are against Gorkhaland, especially many Bengalis from the plains – something that CM hopes to use to her advantage in 2019, to win the support of people that are rooting for the BJP in Darjeeling.