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14 Jun 2017

Delhi hands off hills - Centre has no plan to intervene now, says home ministry official...sending six company CRPF

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, TT, New Delhi, June 13: The Centre is not thinking of any direct intervention in Darjeeling at this stage and is committed to helping the Mamata Banerjee government if it seeks any assistance, a senior home ministry official told The Telegraph today.
"At this stage, there is no question of sending any central team to Darjeeling.... Any interference in Bengal at this juncture will only snowball into a political row," the home ministry official said.
Yesterday, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had sought immediate intervention by the Centre.
Another home ministry official pointed out that law and order was a state subject. "We will offer our help if the Bengal government seeks the Centre's assistance," the official said. "We are not in a hurry to send a team to Darjeeling."
On the ground in the hills, the Bengal government took the battle to the Morcha by stationing police at the party's headquarters in Singamari and pushing its supporters out of their comfort zone - the first such move since the statehood agitation was reignited a decade ago in 2007. At the Darjeeling district magistrate's office - the hub of state government offices - sources put the attendance at nearly 90 per cent.
Normal life was paralysed in Darjeeling today following a strike call by tea unions, which was supported by the Morcha.
On the political front, the Morcha, which is spearheading the ongoing indefinite agitation, and the Gorkha National Liberation Front, which was at the forefront of the violent campaign in the 1980s, came together for the first time and decided to pursue the Gorkhaland cause.
A Union home ministry official pointed out that the Centre had refrained from intervening in Madhya Pradesh, where a farmer flare-up had killed six people last week, and in Uttar Pradesh that witnessed caste clashes last month.
The Centre had confined itself to asking for a report from the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh on the continuing violence in Saharanpur. Similarly, it had sought a report last week from the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government on the violence in Madhya Pradesh.
"Likewise, we have also sought a report from the Bengal government on Darjeeling," the official said.
However, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the Centre had not sought any report. "The hills are peaceful and the Centre did not seek any report from the state," the chief minister said while leaving Nabanna this evening.
Sources in Calcutta said the state had been informed that six more companies of central forces would be sent for deployment in the hills. "It will help us to some extent. We had six companies of central forces in the hills but three of them were withdrawn and taken to Kashmir after the law and order situation deteriorated there," said an official.
The sources in Delhi pointed out that home minister Rajnath Singh shared a good rapport with Mamata and the Centre did not want to create an impression that it was trying to fish in troubled waters.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VIVEK CHHETRI AND KINSUK BASU IN DARJEELING

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