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16 Jun 2017

Police raid Gurung’s office, Hills burn in GJM backlash

Jayanta Gupta & Deep Gazmer, TNN, Jun 16, 2017, Darjeeling: The Mamata Banerjee government took the fight literally to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung's home on Thursday, with cops breaking open the doors of his Patlewas residence and raiding it for nearly a couple of hours to search for arms after a tip-off.



The morning raid set off a cycle of violence that engulfed the Hills throughout the day, with the GJM leadership calling for an indefinite bandh in Darjeeling even as its foot soldiers ran amok, pelting stones at cops, engaging them in street fights and setting on fire a media van in Patlewas and a police outpost in Kalimpong's Pedong.



In the evening, Gayabari rail station in Kurseong sub-division was set on fire by the agitators. The station, which was closed for long, was reopened a few weeks back.


A huge police force, led by additional director-general Siddhinath Gupta, inspector-general Jawed Shamim and superintendent of police Akhilesh Chaturvedi, broke into Gurung's office-cum-residence at Patlewas, about 5km from Darjeeling, around 10am and seized a large number of bows and arrows, spades, axes and choppers, explosives, night-vision binoculars, radio sets and several la- kh rupees. Gurung, however, gave the raiding party a miss.


The raid, which lasted for nearly a couple of hours, set off widespread violence that triggered the closure of all commercial establishments and banks and ATMs, shutdown of transport services and uncertainty among locals and the handful of tourists who opted to stay back.


Chief minister Mamata Banerjee promised no let-up in the drive against "a handful of ruffians stoking the fire in the Hills".


After a meeting at Nabanna, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said: "I have never seen such a ruckus that continued for two hours while I was taking the cabinet meeting in the Hills last Thursday. They were after some of my ministerial colleagues. We will crush such disruptive forces and restore peace."


By the evening, the GJM appeared to be blinking in the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation that started last Thursday, when its supporters hurled bombs near the venue of a CM-chaired state cabinet meeting, the first such in Darjeeling in 44 years. Perhaps sensing that the impromptu bandh call and the consequent inconvenience might not go down well with Darjeeling residents, the GJM sent feelers to union home minister Rajnath Singh and sought a tripartite meeting with representatives from the centre, the state and GJM.


The state government responded to the GJM's overtures by requisitioning more central forces, leaving the Hills party with an uncertain strategy of how to extricate itself -- and Darjeeling -- from the mess.


Trouble broke out around 10 a.m. on Thursday, when a police team broke open the door of Gurung's residence. "We got information on Wednesday evening that arms were being hoarded for use against police on Thursday. It seems GJM workers planned to use the weapons against police during rallies. We recovered some firearms and two radio sets from the house as well. Two persons have been arrested," Darjeeling SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi said. "They kept all these to attack police. We won't tolerate attempts to instigate violence. We will take strong steps against the accused," ADG (law and order) Anuj Sharma said.



But GJM general secretary Roshan Giri pooh-poohed the police theory. "What did they find? They found some equipment used in archery, a traditional sport. It was meant for an archery festival for school students, probably on July 8," he said.
The raid continued till around noon even as GJM Mahila Morcha supporters staged a dharna in front of their leader's home. GJM supporters from neighbouring villages then laid a siege on the police force as it tried to return after sealing off Gurung's house. Women barracked the police as others from a hilltop threw stones on the force, prompting police to resort to a lathi-charge and bursting tear gas shells. The pitched battle continued for about three hours till the CRPF helped the police team in beating back the agitators.



The incident fuelled tension at Singmari where GJM supporters had gathered to take out a rally. GJM supporters torched the Pedong police outpost, nearly 15 km from Darjeeling, and burnt down the officer-in-charge's vehicle. The production unit of the sericulture department in Barbot was also burnt down and an effort was made to torch the state-run Hilltop Lodge in Kalimpong. Arsonists also torched a state bus at Paglajhora in Kurseong.



Police responded by rounding up GJM supporters. GJM councillor of Ward 16 of Kalimpong Municipality Barun Bhujel was arrested for his involvement in the attack on the sericulture unit, party leader Binod Pradhan was picked up with another person from Pedong and trade union leader Karuna Gurung was arrested from Kurseong.



Bengal tourism minister Gautam Deb called the GJM's bandh illegal. "It is unfortunate that weapons were found in the office and house of a constitutional functionary. This is a war against people," he said.

(Source & Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/police-raid-gurungs-office-hills-burn-in-gjm-backlash/articleshow/59169044.cms)


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