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15 Jun 2017

Darjeeling unrest: Cops attacked after raid on GJM chief's house

Jayanta Gupta & Deep Gazmer | TNN | Jun 15, 2017, DARJEELING: After a day of relative calm, trouble erupted in Darjeeling on Thursday after police raided premises of Bimal Gurung, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president, at Patlewas and seized a large number of bows and arrows, catapults, a few sharp weapons, firecrackers and several lakhs in cash.
A police team led by ADG Siddhinath Gupta, IG Jawed Shamim and SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi broke into the house and office of Bimal Gurung at Patlewas. The raid lasted for nearly one-and-a-half hours.
In retaliation to the raid, the GJM declared an indefinite bandh in the Hills. Within minutes of the bandh call, shops and establishments downed shutters and vehicles went off the streets.
After the raid at Gurung's house, hundreds of GJM supporters gathered there, surrounded security personnel and set ablaze police vehicles. The police lobbed tear gas shells and resorted to a lathicharge to disperse the mob that pelted stones on them. Reinforcements were sought to bring the situation under control.
Banks and ATMs that had opened after a couple of days and outside which hundreds had queued up since early in the morning also downed shutters, resulting in uncertainty among locals and a few tourists who are still in Darjeeling. GJM workers also set ablaze the Pedong police outpost in Kalimpong after the raid at Patlewas but authorities thwarted the efforts of the GJM's Nari Morcha to hold rallies in Darjeeling. Nari Morcha leader Karuna Gurung was also arrested from her house in Kurseong in the morning. GJM worker Binod Pradhan was arrested in connection with the arson at the Pedong police outpost.
"We received information on Wednesday evening that arms are being accumulated for use against the police on Thursday. It seems that GJM workers planned to use the weapons against the police during the rallies. Apart from the bows and arrows and firecrackers, we recovered some firearms and two radio sets from the house as well. Two persons have been arrested. We will take necessary legal steps," Chaturvedi said after the raid that started around 9 am, barely an hour before the Mahila Morcha was to take out rallies from Darjeeling railway station and the GJM's headquarters in Singmari. The police effectively barricaded the women demonstrators at Patlewas and prevented them to proceed towards Singmari or the railway station.
While Gurung was not at his residence in Patlewas when the raid took place, party general secretary Roshan Giri said that the police action was a provocation. "What did they find? A few bows and arrows. These were stocked there to teach archery to schoolchildren. An archery competition was also planned for July 8 in which the schoolchildren were to participate. They are trying to establish the GJM is a militant and violent outfit. This is untrue. Our fight is for Gorkhaland and even the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), which was an alliance partner of the Trinamool Congress, has now come forward to fight for the cause," he said.
GJM leader Binoy Tamang said that bows and arrows are traditional weapons that Gorkhas - who are tribals - can carry. Even traditional Khukhris as well as spades, axes and choppers, used as agricultural equipment in this part of the country, have been shown as weapons, he said. The police, however, said that the GJM should explain the presence of firearms, radio sets and night vision binoculars from the house. West Bengal tourism minister Gautam Deb called the GJM's bandh illegal. "It is unfortunate that weapons are found in the office and house of a constitutional functionary. The police acted as per the country's laws. The bandh is illegal as per the orders of the Supreme and high courts. This is a war against people," he said.

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