'No one is above law,' CM warns Darjeeling trouble-makers
A day after Darjeeling was on the boil with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and security forces locking horns and police vehicles and government property being torched, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday declared that "the law would take its own course and that no one is above the law".
Meanwhile, while stranded tourists were evacuated by State buses to Siliguri and onward to Kolkata, a ITI office in Mongpu was torched in the early hours of Friday. Banerjee has declared that the Government will take a tough stand and a committee comprising of three senior IPS officers has been constituted to examine the law and order situation of the Hills. GJM President Bimal Gurung has demanded President's rule in West Bengal.
On Friday morning, the Chief Minister visited the Chowrasta area, where police vehicles had been torched. Along with 15 police vehicles and a State bus, a police booth has been torched on Thursday.
The Darjeeling district magistrate, too, issued prohibitory orders barring people from entering and staying in the Gorkha Ranga Mancha Bhawan at Chowrasta, which also houses GTA offices. For the next two months or till the withdrawal of the order, anyone found entering or staying in the building or in the premises (except when authorised) would face imprisonment for six months and a fine, stated the order.
The order claimed that this Government building had been used by the GJM for political activity and had been turned into a launch pad for throwing stones and other objects at magistrates and the police, thereby injuring many. In order to prevent such a situation in future, the prohibitory order was being clamped.
Talking to mediapersons later on, the CM declared that the situation is under control. Strongly condemning Thursday's incident, she pointed out that arms, bombs, bricks and Moltov cocktails had been hurled from Ranga Mancha. "We have evidence of this. Our police did a commendable job. They maintained restraint. We always maintain restraint but this time they have crossed all limits" added Banerjee.
Reacting to Gurung's allegations that TMC youths had hurled stones which had led to the clashes, Mamata Banerjee stated "The TMC supporters were in front of Raj Bhawan and were not at the spot." She even took an oblique shot at the CPI(M) — without directly naming it. Banerjee asked the CPI(M) "not to fish in troubled waters".
Keeping a close watch and reviewing the situation, Banerjee held several meetings with the police and administrative brass at Richmond Government Guest House. A committee has been formed with Siddhi Nath Gupta (ADG& IGP,) Jawed Shamim (IGP) and Ajay Kumar Nand (IGP.) DGP Surojit Purokayosto too is camping in the Hills.
Amidst the 12-hour Youth Morcha bandh, the CM went around town. Using a public address system, she requested the people to sever ties with the party that is calling bandhs, thereby delving a blow to the economic mainstay of the Hills. She appealed to the public to keep shops open.
Though shops, business establishments, education institutes, banks, post office remained closed in the Hills, Government offices remained open. Banerjee also visited the injured policemen and CRPF personnel at Sadar Hospital.
The GJM will be holding an emergency Central Committee meeting at Patleybash on the outskirts of Darjeeling town at 11 am on Saturday. The future political programmes will be announced by Gurung after the meeting.
"There will be no bandh on Saturday. Mamata Banerjee's imposition of language and on GTA offices has led to the unrest. We will walk the Gorkhaland path, therefore, we will discard GTA. Without following protocol and informing me, the State Government has removed my police security. The Central Government should look into this. The West Bengal Government has launched a reign of terror. President's rule has to be imposed in Bengal," Gurung told mediapersons.
The Army continued route marches and flag marches throughout Friday.