Darjeeling on the boil: GJM resorts to violence
Darjeeling was singed once again with the situation taking a violent turn on Thursday after agitated Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters clashed with the security forces leaving as many as 45 personnel injured in the incident.
Army has been deployed in Darjeeling, Ghoom and Kurseong. A police booth was set on fire and around 15 police vehicles were torched along with a state government bus. The Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha has called for a 12-hour bandh on Friday.
Since morning, the situation was volatile in Darjeeling with the GJM taking out rallies and sit-in demonstration just metres away from the Raj Bhawan where the state Cabinet meeting was taking place. The activists converged from Singmari, Darjeeling railway station and Batasia Loop at the Gorkha Ranga Mancha Bhawan and staged a sit-in demonstration.
The police had set up barricades below the St Andrew's Church while the state Cabinet meeting started at Raj Bhawan at around 2 pm. The two-hour-long sit-in demonstration started with sloganeering which continued till around 2:45 pm. Vehicles stopped plying and shops downed shutters in Darjeeling.
Meanwhile, the state Cabinet meeting followed by a press conference got over at the same time. Following the Cabinet meeting, the 28 ministers were at Raj Bhawan and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had returned to Richmond Hill government guest house.
A few yards away the sit-in demonstration came to an end at around 3 pm. An eyewitness who did not want to be named stated "At around 3 pm, the GJM supporters torched an effigy of the CM. Suddenly there were stones being pelted and amidst shouts, a stampede ensued. Some people even tried to bring down the police barricade."
The police resorted to lathi-charge and fired tear gas shells. Police vehicles parked on the Chowrasta Road were torched while stones and bottles rained on the cops from the Hill above. While a large police contingent was in front of Raj Bhawan, the other units went about countering the GJM.
Police personnel, CRPF including lady police personnel and several officers were injured. Finally, at around 5 pm, the situation was brought under control and the GJM supporters and leaders left the area.
The GJM claimed that five of their supporters were injured. "We have called for a 12-hour bandh from 6 am to 6 pm on Friday. All education institutes will remain closed, traffic will not ply and business establishments will remain shut. Emergency services, however, have been exempted. Everything was going peacefully until TMC supporters started throwing stones at the sit-in demonstration leading to this," alleged Amrit Yonzon, Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha leader.
Mamata Banerjee sat in an administrative meeting with the Chief Secretary and the Home Secretary at Richmond Hill. In the evening, a North Bengal state transport bus was torched at the Chowk Bazar.
At around 7 pm, the 28 ministers left Darjeeling for Siliguri, leaving behind the Chief Minister who refused to leave Darjeeling till the situation returned to normal. The administration has stated that all government offices will remain open on Friday.
A six-member team comprising senior audit and accounts services officers will initiate the special audit of GTA on Friday. The team will be led by Deputy Commissioner Jayanta Majumdar. It will be giving the preliminary report within the next 10 days.
Reacting to the agitation, the Chief Minister said: "They do not have any issue and are creating trouble and unrest unnecessarily. The BJP is adding fuel to fire and are stoking the unrest."
The state government has declared the "bandh" called by the GJM as illegal.
Any government employee or employee of any local body including the GTA who refrains from attending office will be treated as a case of break in service and salary deduction will be done for the same for the period of absence. In another development, Barun Kumar Ray, the IAS officer of 1992 batch, has been made the new Principal Secretary of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) after the removal of Ravi Inder Singh. Ray was earlier posted as Secretary of North Bengal Development Department and prior to that he was Commissioner of Jalpaiguri Division.