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29 Jun 2017

Army withdrawn from hills

Kinsuk Basu, TT, Calcutta, June 28: The Bengal government has requested the Eastern Command to withdraw the army from Darjeeling, apparently following an assessment that the prevailing situation in the hills can be handled by police.
A senior government official said the police would continue patrolling the hill streets but avoid going into a confrontation with rallyists seeking a Gorkhaland state.
Of late, the police have adopted a cautious approach in dealing with rallies being brought out by the hill-based political parties seeking a separate state. Political observers believe that this approach has helped bring some semblance of calm to the region.
"The withdrawal of the army is an indication that the state forces have found their footing back in the hills after the initial days of unrest when the army had to be called in. The chief minister has made up her mind that she will not buckle under pressure from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha," said the home department official.
Within hours of the flare-up on June 8, Mamata had requested for the army to be deployed in the hills to help maintain law and order - the first such move by her since becoming chief minister in 2011. Around 800 personnel of the army and paramilitary forces had been camping in the hills since then.
"On June 24, we received a request from the state government seeking withdrawal of the army from Darjeeling," an officer at the Eastern Command said.
Sources said the two units of the Maratha Light Infantry that had been deployed from the Jalapahar military base in Darjeeling had been sent back.
The state home department has directed the CID to probe the June 17 violence in Singamari, in which three persons were killed and 35 policemen injured. The police have named Morcha chief Bimal Gurung and his wife Asha in the FIR.
"Now that the CID has asked to probe the violence, there may be some action," said a home department source.

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