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10 Jun 2017

Didi rolls up sleeves and acts - After confidence-building steps and police beef-up, CM leaves

Mamata was walking through Chowk Bazar when she saw Krishna Goyal being carried
by his family members who were looking for a stretcher. The 12-year-old boy from Rajasthan had fallen from the bed in his hotel room and suffered injuries. Mamata
asked the boy’s relatives to take him to a hospital in one of her escort vehicles.
Krishna was discharged later. Picture by Passang Yolmo
TT, Darjeeling, June 9: Mamata Banerjee this morning positioned herself at the frontline of efforts to restore normality to the hills and moved to the plains in the night, capping a day that saw a mix of confidence-building steps and law-enforcement measures.
The chief minister hit the streets to try and convince tourist and resident personally that she would not allow a rerun of yesterday's violence.
"Don't worry; we are here. All arrangements have been made," she told whoever she met, urging them to resume their normal lives.
"Open your shops," she prodded the local population. "I want to tell the tourists that Darjeeling is a peaceful place. An incident took place yesterday; now it's under control."
The initiative prompted an IAS officer to say: "I have never seen a chief minister play such a visible, proactive role in a crisis such as this."
Senior police officers with experience in Darjeeling have been called to the hills. Mamata left Darjeeling by road at 9.30pm and reached Siliguri around midnight.
The arrival of the senior officers and the departure of Mamata after a largely peaceful day are being seen as precursors to a revamp in the police administration in Darjeeling and a possible crackdown on mischief-makers.
Late tonight, sources indicated that a senior officer in Darjeeling had been transferred. An officer from Calcutta police has been asked to take charge tomorrow, they added.
"What happened yesterday happened only because we had not expected them to carry out such a taandav (rampage).... When we realised the situation, we took control of it. It won't happen again," Mamata had told reporters earlier in the day. Her comment suggested a lack of intelligence inputs on the possible courses the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's sit-in protest might take.
The army had to be called in yesterday after Morcha supporters stoned police and torched their vehicles, protesting an alleged government plan to impose Bengali on the hills' schools despite Mamata's assurances to the contrary.
The Morcha's youth wing had called a bandh today and the fear of more violence kept the shops shut, the streets deserted and most of the 87 tea gardens paralysed.
But Mamata went out with a sense of purpose rather than confine herself to closed-door administrative meetings. Ditching her signature shawl for a pink cardigan worn over her sari, she began her day with an 8am stroll towards Chowrasta, along a stretch that had witnessed pitched battles barely 17 hours ago.
She later toured the town in her car but with the windows rolled down and a loudhailer in hand, informing tourists about transport arrangements and reassuring everyone she was on top of the situation.
At Motor Stand, she got off the car and mingled with people. "Open your shops; the police will give you protection - the army too is here," she exhorted shopkeepers. "Who will benefit if the shops remain shut? They (the Morcha) only know how to burn and terrorise."
Although the town did not immediately respond to her call, the chief minister said that most government offices were open. "Some shops were closed today but, then, most of them are owned by linguistic minorities here and they were a bit shaken," Mamata told reporters.
The chief minister spent the afternoon at Richmond Hill, her official bungalow in Darjeeling, monitoring the situation and taking a slew of administrative decisions.
District magistrate Joyoshi Das Gupta issued an order barring anyone from entering the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan without permission from the district magistrate or the police chief for the next two months.
The Bhavan houses Morcha chief Bimal Gurung's office, at least a dozen key departments of the Morcha-run Gorkhaland Territorial Administration and the GTA Sabha.
Das Gupta said she had information that the Bhavan had been used for a political meeting yesterday and "as a base and launch pad for violent activities". She said the order had been necessary to prevent misuse of the government building for illegal activities and to "preserve evidence".
The state government also withdrew Gurung's police protection. A special audit of the GTA that Mamata had already ordered kicked off today, with the report expected in two weeks.

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