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10 Jun 2017

Mamata warns GJM against crossing 'Lakshmanrekha'

EOI, Agencies, DARJEELING, 9 Jun 2017: The Army staged flag marches in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) observed a 12-hour bandh, which was described by chief minister Mamata Banerjee as "illegal".
"The situation is under control and government offices recorded 98 to 100 per cent attendance in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik," Mamata told newspersons here. She said some shops were closed as their owners were wary of GJM vandalism. GJM chief Bimal Gurung has challenged Banerjee to stop the agitation in the hills, asserting that "his writ runs in the hill". He also projected himself as the "chief minister of the hills". Gurung said the GJM would formulate a strategy for further agitation in a democratic way. The six columns of Army carried out flag marches in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, a defence spokesperson said, adding the situation was under control.
Darjeeling town, brimming over with tourists, had witnessed violence on Thursday when GJM supporters clashed with the police and burnt state vehicles. Mamata, who stayed back here after Thursday's cabinet meeting, asked the tourists not to get scared. She said a three-member committee comprising three senior IPS officers had been set up to look after the law and order situation in Darjeeling. The chief minister said arrangements had been made to help the tourists return to Siliguri from Darjeeling. The state government has also arranged buses to take the tourists from Siliguri to Kolkata, she said.
Mamata, who visited some areas and interacted with the people, said: "I have seen how so many vehicles were set on fire. We want peace and development in the hills. The Army has already started route march."
Warning the GJM not to cross the "lakshman rekha", the TMC leader said, "There is a limit to everything. Strong action will be taken if they cross the limit." "The police will do its work and law will take its own course. Nobody is above law. Government is very tough. They will take action against those who are doing this vandalism," she said when asked about the kind of action the government was planning against the GJM chief. An FIR was filed under non-bailable sections at the Darjeeling Sadar police station against Gurung and GJM general secretary Roshan Giri on Thursday. The GJM supporters had protested alleging that the state government was imposing Bengali language in the schools in the hills, which was refuted by the chief minister.
Reiterating that language was not the issue, she said, Gurung-led Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) had failed to carry out any development work in the hills and when their term was scheduled to be over next month, they have started "torturing the public". "The previous Left Front government and the Centre had given them (GJM) indulgence," she said admitting that her own government compromised with them sometime. Gurung, on the other hand, accused the TMC activists of hurling stones at the police on Thursday and alleged TMC was responsible for the prevailing situation in the hills. Urging people in the hills not to support Gurung, the chief ministere said GJM was scaring away tourists from the hills which would affect the people who thrived on tourism. The chief minister, who visited the injured police personnel in the hospital, said the state government would give compensation to their families and bear their medical expenses.
To keep GJM under pressure, the state government today directed the state finance department to submit the special audit report of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-led Gorkhaland Territorial Administration's (GTA) handling of finances within another two weeks. The directive came soon after Thursday's clash between the GJM and the police in Darjeeling, according to a senior official at the state secretariat. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had ordered the special audit of funds given to the GTA and finance secretary H K Dwivedi had been instructed to carry it out. "Earlier, there was no specific deadline set for the submission of the audit report but as per the new directive the finance secretary needs to complete the process and submit the report within two weeks' time," the officer said.
It was learnt that the GTA has so far received nearly Rs 900 crore from the state government and over Rs 600 crore from the Centre since 2012. "There have been reports of misuse of funds against GTA. Besides, it has not given any documentation on its utilisation of the funds... The audit will give us a clear idea," the official said. Meanwhile, Opposition parties made use of the opportunity to criticise the state government's role in the hills today. West Bengal Left Front chairman Biman Bose today said TMC's government's "mishandling" is one of the main reasons behind the unrest in the Darjeeling hills and demanded an all party meeting to resolve the situation. "After 43 years the TMC government had spent lakhs to organize cabinet meeting in the hills. We don't think provocation and violence can solve the problem. We think only talks can bring peace in the hills," Bose told newspersons here.
"We will support if the government takes an initiative to call an all party meeting to chalk out a solution," he said.
Bose, who is also a CPM Politburo member, recollected how the Left Front government under the leadership of Jyoti Basu had brought peace in the hills in the 1980s.
The Congress today expressed concern over the situation in the Darjeeling hills and hoped that both parties would chalk out a strategy to restore peace and normalcy in the hills. "We express our concern over the prevailing situation in the hills and hope that the situation will soon normalize and peace will be restored," Congress national spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi told newspersons. State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury today blamed chief minister Mamata Banerjee for the unrest in the hills. "She should now apologize to the people of Bengal for fooling them by saying 'hills are smiling'. Now we can see hills are burning. It is a complete administrative failure of the TMC government. The GJM wanted to protest in a peaceful way, but TMC which doesn't believe in democracy triggered violence in the hills by using police and goons," Chowdhury said.

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