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Darjeeling: Centre refuses to send additional troops till TMC govt sends report

Since Thursday, rampaging protesters have torched government buildings and vehicles to protest a police raid on an office of the GJM which administers the Gorkha Territorial Council (GTC).

india Updated: Jun 16, 2017 20:50 IST
Darjeeling,Gorkhaland,Bimal Gurung
CRPF jawans standing guard during a strike called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha in Kurseong, Darjeeling on Friday. (PTI Photo)

The Centre said on Friday it will not send additional forces to quell a violent agitation in Bengal’s hill districts till the Mamata Banerjee government gives a report on the situation in the semi-autonomous region.

The government’s refusal could lead to a showdown with the Trinamool regime, which accuses the BJP of backing the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM)’s agitation for a separate state.

Since Thursday, rampaging protesters have torched government buildings and vehicles to protest a police raid on an office of the GJM which administers the Gorkha Territorial Council (GTC).

“We will take a decision on sending additional paramilitary forces only when we make an assessment of the prevailing situation in Darjeeling. It is possible only when we receive a report from the state government, which has not sent it yet,” a home ministry spokesperson said in Delhi.

On Thursday, the Centre had agreed to send 400 personnel to Darjeeling, in addition to 1,000 sent earlier. The state has sought eight more companies of central paramilitary forces even as the chief minister sent seven additional IPS officers to the hills to control the situation.

The Centre sought a report from the Trinamool government on June 13, days after the first wave of violence started over an alleged move to impose Bengali in schools in the hills.

Though the state government later said the subject will be optional, the GJM refused to back down and revived its demand for a separate state.

On Friday, the Calcutta high court declared as illegal an GJM-called indefinite shutdown, upholding its own order in 2013.

The court also sought an estimate from the state government on the losses incurred due to the agitation that has affected the region’s biggest money-spinner, tourism.

As violence raged across three districts including Darjeeling, a popular hill station, security forces guarded sensitive areas across the hills. The army was called out last week.

Though the GJM suffered a setback in court, in Darjeeling it won the support of the Jan Andolan Party (JAP) which has not joined the protests. The JAP had skipped a called by GJM on June 13 for a resolution to fight for Gorkhaland.

Led by party chief Harkabahadur Chettri, JAP activists staged a silent march in Kalimpong to demand Gorkhaland and to protest the raid on GJM’s office.

Chettri carried a placard that said,“I support Gorkhaland. Arrest me.”

Throughout the day, the streets were deserted as shops and business establishments remained closed. GJM president Bimal Gurung continued to remain in hiding fearing arrest.

A few hundred tourists were still stranded in the hills following the bandh called on Thursday.

Throughout Thursday night, suspected protestors attacked government properties including torching residential quarters of forest department employees at Tarkhola, about 30 km from Kalimpong town.

A primary health centre run by the state government-owned Ramam hydel project at Lodhama, about 70 km from Darjeeling and an supply were also set on fire. A panchayat building in Mirik, where the Trinamool Congress won the civic poll last month, was also set on fire.

The Ghayabari railway station of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly known as the toy train, was set ablaze on Thursday night but local people managed to douse the fire.

The station is 31 km from Siliguri, which falls under Darjeeling district but not part of the GTC.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Jun 16, 2017 20:16 IST