'Hundreds' of weapons found in Gorkha Janmukti Morcha office
Violence was reported across Darjeeling on Thursday and a vehicle set ablaze after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) called for a complete shutdown in the Hills following a raid on its party office. There were also reports of arson on public property from all over the region.
Amid fresh violence in the Hills, addressing a function in Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the state government will bring an end to the hooliganism that is going on in Darjeeling. Urging the citizens to not pay any heed to them, she said: "I will give my blood but will not allow anyone to conspire to push Darjeeling into danger."
A huge police contingent along with the CRPF led by top cops — Jawed Shamim, Siddhinath Gupta and Anand Kumar — arrived at Patleybash, 6 km from Darjeeling town. They were accompanied by Darjeeling SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi. Patleybash is a GJM stronghold which houses the GJM party office and Bimal Gurung's residence. Seven senior IPS officers including ADG (Armed Police) Ranvir Kumar had been sent to Darjeeling.
Police said more than 300 weapons, including arrows and explosives, huge quantities of firecrackers, sling shots, khukuris, axes, binocular and two radio sets, improvised arm along with bags full of cash in different denominations had been recovered from premises connected with GJM boss Gurung. Cash worth Rs 30 lakh was also recovered from the GJM office.
"We had information that Morcha leaders and supporters were gathering here, hence we had come for raids. From here we managed to recover these modified bows and arrows along with other items. ," stated Chaturvedi. The party office was then sealed.
The police also raided the Kanchenjunga School in Patleybash where Gurung and his men usually hold meetings. While the security forces were returning from the raid there were incidents of stone pelting from both sides. A press vehicle was torched. The LiveU set, camera and tripod along with personal belongings of a media person were completed gutted.
The security forces fired tear gas and also lathi-charged trying to ward off the attack. "The security forces were fired upon and petrol bombs were charged. Improvised arms were also recovered in the raids. Two of our men have been injured," stated Gupta.
"The police along with TMC supporters vandalised our house and torched two vehicles parked in our compound," alleged Asha Gurung, GJM leader and wife of Bimal Gurung.
With news of the raid in Patleybash, the GJM clamped an indefinite general bandh in the Hills. Shops hurriedly downed shutters. Schools closed down early with anxious parents collecting their wards.
Incidents of violence and arson started trickling in. In Kalimpong, the Morcha supporters demonstrated in the Dambar Chowk in the heart of the town. "In Pedong a police outpost was set ablaze. The sericulture office located at Barbot was torched," said Ajit Yadav, Superintendent of Police, Kalimpong.
In Kurseong, the GJM supporters took out a rally. Late in the afternoon, a state transport bus was torched at Paglajhora in between Mahanadi and Kurseong. GJM Trade Union leader Karuna Gurung was arrested from her residence in Kurseong. The Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union affiliated to the GJM has called for an indefinite bandh of the Hill tea gardens demanding the release of Karuna Gurung.
Meanwhile, Pradip Singha has been removed from the post of Deputy Superintendent of Police District Intelligence Branch (DIB), Darjeeling and has been made the DSP of Nadia. Avijit Mitra, who was the Joint Assistant Director of the state's Intelligence Branch, has become the new DSP DIB, Darjeeling.
In a late night development, Ghayabari railway station was torched.
In related development, Union Minister SS Ahluwalia and GJM general secretary Roshan Giri met the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh at North Block on Thursday here and placed their demands.
GJM senior leader Roshan Giri asserted that they would not participate in the June 19 tripartite meeting called by the Home Ministry to discuss issues related to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). "We will talk only about a separate state," he added.