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Darjeeling bandh: Army steps in to restore peace as GJM protests intensify

Situation went out of hand on June 15 following a police raid at GJM chief's house-cum-office

Avishek Rakshit  |  Kolkata 

GJM shutdown
Security personnel stop Gorkha Janamukti Morcha supporters who were staging a rally in Kurseong during their Darjeeling bandh. Photo: PTI

After a 35-year long hiatus, the West Bengal government had to again fall back on Indian Army's help in its efforts to contain escalated tension in the hills following the revival of the demand of a separate state for the by the (GJM).
 
Following the situation in and nearby Kalimpong and Kurseong, getting out of hand on Thursday after the police raided GJM supremo Bimal Gurung's home-cum-office, allegedly recovering arms and ammunition, the Army has been deployed in GJM strongholds like Singmarii and Paltaban to keep a tight vigil and prevent further tensions.

The state government had sought the Army's help earlier this month, but so long, it was kept as a reserve force with the state administration clarifying that it will be only used if the situation gets out of hand. On June 8, the day GJM erupted in violent protests over the state Cabinet meeting in the Governor House in Darjeeling, two columns of army were called in from Siliguri under the Eastern Command.

The Centre on Tuesday had rushed an additional 400 paramilitary personnel to to help the local administration restore peace which was in addition to 1,000 personnel already stationed there.

"Had the government not resorted to hold the cabinet meet here, things wouldn't have gone to this extent. However, I have met the union home minister accompanied by the parliamentarian from our area, S S Ahluwalia, to discuss restoring peace," Roshan Giri, spokesperson and senior leader of the GJM said. Giri is currently in New Delhi trying to draw the Centre's attention to the crisis in

While tensions after June 8 subsided after 50 policemen were injured and 24 police vehicles gutted, the situation went out of hand on June 15 following a police raid in Gurung's house-cum-office.

Just after the two-hour-long raid, Darjeeling, and the nearby areas of Kalimpong and Kurseong erupted in violence which culminated in alleged GJM supporters torching the Pedong police outpost near Kalimpong, the cash counter of the Rimbick Hydel power plant and a primary health centre in A forest bungalow and primary school in Kalimpong and the Gram Panchayat's office in Mirik were also attacked and destroyed. Two vehicles, including a media car, were also set on fire.

Sources said six people, suspected behind some of these attacks, have been detained by the police on Friday.

The GJM, which so long hadn't directly called for a shutdown in hills but had lent its support to trade unions which had called for a two-day strike on June 12 responded to the police raid by announcing a complete shutdown in the hills.

Sources said minutes after the announcement, shops, ATMs, eateries and other commercial establishments hurriedly downed their shutters and the situation remains the same till day.

The GJM earlier had been picketing state government establishments and offices which were supposed to end on June 20.

"Even though we are not in favour of a bandh, the state government, through its actions is leaving us with no choice. They have upped presence of the police, called in the Army and have now started harassing us by conducting raids. We are not left with any other option but to call for a bandh," a local GJM leader said.

The Calcutta High Court has termed the bandh as illegal.

First Published: Sat, June 17 2017. 09:55 IST
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