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27 Jun 2017

Violence returns to Darjeeling, Army secures power plant...Board chairman's house torched

Dwaipayan Ghosh & Deep Gazmer | TNN | Jun 27, 2017, DARJEELING: The Hills returned to violence on Monday, after a one-week lull, with suspected Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters setting on fire the house of a development board chairperson who had attended a meeting convened by the Bengal government at Nabanna last Friday.
Khas Development Board chairman Rajen Bhetwal managed to flee his Kalimpong home, according to initial reports, but four others of his family were trapped in the flames for a few minutes till cops and fire brigade personnel managed to bring them out.

Elsewhere in Darjeeling district, the Army moved in to secure a hydroelectricity plant supplying power to the state grids of both Bengal and Sikkim. Army personnel have staged several marches in and around Darjeeling town but this is the first time that the administration has felt compelled to ask them to secure a vital installation.



Chairpersons of several development boards had attended the meeting convened by the Bengal government last Friday, incurring the wrath of the GJM. Bhetwal was one of those who attended that meeting though he refrained from attending the next meeting convened by the government a day later in Siliguri.


Officials said Bhetwal's home, at Algara in Kalimpong, was set on fire around 9.15 pm. He fled but four others were trapped inside. "Fortunately, both cops and fire brigade were present nearby and they managed to bring them out," an official said.


Additional DGP (law and order) Anuj Sharma said additional security will now be given to all development board chairpersons.


GJM central committee (Kalimpong) member Topden Bhutia blamed "miscreants" for the arson. Our people were not involved," he claimed. The last incident of arson in the Hills came on June 19, when suspected GJM supporters set a truck on fire with its driver inside; the driver escaped with 70% burns.


The threat of violence also forced the administration to ask army personnel to secure the Rammam Thermal Power Plant belonging to the National Thermal Power Corporation. Officials said there were agitations, threatening to shut down the plant about 50 km from Darjeeeling town and 150 km from Bagdogra.


The GJM on Monday attempted to ratchet up the pressure on both the centre and the state, with its youth wing threatening self-immolation and fast-unto-death agitations during the monsoon session of Parliament and ex-servicemen demanding chief minister Mamata Banerjee withdraw her allegation linking the Gorkhaland movement with terror outfits.


The GJM on Tuesday plans to burn copies of the GTA accord at Chowkbazar in Darjeeling town, Pintail village where the agreement had been signed and 45 other places in the Hills to up the ante. Gorkha Yuva Morcha president Prakash Tamang said supporters would smash tubelights on their bodies in a symbolic gesture to highlight alleged police atrocities.


ADG (operations) Siddhinath Gupta, now in charge of Darjeeling affairs along with inspector-general Manoj Verma and superintendent of police Akhilesh Chaturvedi, made a reconnaissance of Singhmari police outpost, which witnessed the worst violence on June 17 when GJM supporters clashed with police, resulting in three deaths. The cops, however, steered clear of GJM chief Bimal Gurung's residence at Patlewas, with the convoy turning right from Singhmari towards Darjeeling zoo.


The police visit came barely an hour after more than 5,000 former army men and war widows participated in a silent rally criss-crossing Darjeeling town. Gorkha Yuva Morcha president Prakash Tamang said the GJM would raise the pitch during the Parliament's upcoming monsoon session. "We are planning self-immolation and fast-unto-death to give the administration a jolt. The centre must open a dialogue for a separate state," he said.



Criticizing the attacks on drivers of vehicles registered in Sikkim and the Nepali-speaking community in Siliguri, Tamang alleged the Trinamool Congress had joined forces with Amra Bangali, a fringe group, to thwart the Gorkhaland movement.


Hills residents believe that the all-party meeting convened by the GJM on June 29 may be the key to determining the movement's movement. The GJM had earlier twice called all-party meetings on June 13 and 20 in Darjeeling, which were attended by the GNLF, the Hills unit of the BJP and the CPRM. The GNLF on Monday again said it would be part of the ongoing protests.

(Source & Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/violence-returns-to-darjeeling-army-secures-power-plant/articleshow/59328736.cms)

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