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12 Jun 2017

Morcha and govt brace for showdown, 5 arrested - Arrests won't deter us, says Gurung

Policemen posted at the entrance to the district magistrate’s office in Darjeeling on Sunday. Pictures by Passang Yolmo
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, June 11: A battle of nerves has begun in the hills with police rounding up five Gorkha Janmukti Morcha activists last night and the party declaring that it wouldn't be cowed down by the arrests and would strive to make its "indefinite agitation" successful.
Hours after the police arrested the five Morcha activists, including a woman, for their alleged role in Thursday's violence, party president Bimal Gurung today asked tourists to leave the hills as "anything might happen".
"They (the five Morcha workers) have been booked for unlawful assembly, creating mischief, assault and using criminal force on officers and obstructing them from discharging duties, and under various sections of the act on prevention of destruction of public property," said Pankaj Prasad, an assistant public prosecutor.
Gurung wasted little time in highlighting the arrests.
Gurung in Darjeeling on Sunday
"Let them arrest us, let them lathi-charge... bullets can be fired too. Why just five, even 5,000 can be arrested. A lot of things are happening; the situation is not getting better. In an agitation, all these things happen. Police are also human beings, we are also human beings. Tomorrow, there will be a total strike in government offices," he said.
The Bengal administration has made adequate security arrangements to thwart the picketing of government offices and issued an order saying employees of the state government and the GTA would have to face action, including a break in service, if they skipped office.
Referring to the measures the government has threatened, Gurung said: "If they can shut down my office, GTA Sabha House and the departments at Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan, why can't we call for the closure of all government offices?"
Gurung with some newly inducted Morcha members at the party office in Darjeeling on Sunday.
Picture by Passang Yolmo
Sources said there were apprehensions in the Morcha that the state government was preparing for a massive crackdown and party leaders had drawn up a strategy to counter any possible attempt.
"Emotions are running high among people. Trinamul supporters are returning to our party unable to accept Bengal's atrocities. Today, 42 families from Singtom tea garden joined us. Tomorrow, 84 Trinamul families from Krishnanagar in Tukvar will join the Morcha. Thousands are ready to take to the streets if there are police excesses," said Gurung, who is also the GTA chief executive.
S.K. Lama, the president of Trinamul's Singtom estate unit, under whose leadership the 42 families switched allegiance to the Morcha today, said: "We decided to join the Morcha as this is the question of our language and the future of our community."
In 2013, when the last phase of the Gorkhaland agitation was launched, the Bengal government had avoided a direct confrontation with baton-charge and crackdown on rallies, but had arrested nearly 800 Morcha supporters over a span of 44 days.
In yet another stern message to the administration, Gurung today advised tourists to leave Darjeeling, a day after the chief minister assured visitors that everything was under control.
"Things are getting worse and I think the tourists should leave. Anything might happen. Since this is an issue of the language, the community's protest will take place in Assam, Meghalaya, Delhi and other parts of the country, too."
To garner support from the tea gardens, the Morcha today backed a strike called in four districts of north Bengal by the Joint Forum, an apex body of 24 trade unions, tomorrow and a general strike on Tuesday over minimum wages.

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