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In a symbolic protest against the alleged high-handedness of Bengal government in the northern West Bengal hills, eminent personalities of the Gorkha community on Thursday returned their awards from the state government at a public gathering in Darjeeling's Chowrasta.
Stepping up their demand for a separate Gorkhaland state, three eminent personalities of the community gave up their awards on the birth anniversary of Nepali poet Bhanubhakta Acharya, as decided during the second Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) meeting on July 11.
"Nepali writer and translator Krishna Singh Moktan, musician Karma Younzon and Kurseong College Principal Prakash Pradhan gave up their awards today (Thursday), conveying their complete support towards our movement for Gorkhaland," Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) General Secretary Roshan Giri told IANS.
"I am supporting the Gorkhaland movement. I am returning these decorative awards as a mark of protest against the government of West Bengal," Moktan, also a former Inspector General of Police of the district, said.
"I am a musician but above all, I am supporter of Gorkhaland. We need Gorkhaland. We do not need any awards from this Bengal government. I am sure I would get many such awards from Gorkhaland when the separate state is formed," Younzon, who was given the "Sangeet Samman" award in 2016 by the present state government, said.
Meanwhile, on the 29th day of the indefinite shutdown in the north Bengal hills, fresh incidents of violence were reported from the region as the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Tourist Information office at Chowrasta was set ablaze by a mob on Wednesday night.
The residence of Chairman of Tamang Development Board and the Revenue Inspector's office in Darjeeling's Sukna were also set on fire allegedly by pro-Gorkhaland activists, police said.
On Thursday morning, a convoy of state Tourism Minister Gautam Deb was allegedly stopped and attacked on the way to Darjeeling's Panighatta to attend a programme on the occasion of poet Bhanubhakta Acharya's birth anniversary.
"A mob tried to stop us from entering Panighatta by barricading the road and pelted stones at our cars. They also attacked and vandalised a police vehicle on our way back. These people were gathered by the GJM. They are indulging in vandalism in the name of the movement," Deb alleged.
The GJM leadership, however, refuted the charges and said their supporters were being framed by the minister.
"I am sure no one from the Morcha was involved in the arson. They are trying to frame us in false cases. The GJM believes in democratic movements," Roshan Giri said.