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12 Jul 2017

Enough forces for hills: Delhi to HC

TT, Calcutta, July 11: The Centre today told Calcutta High Court that it had sent "enough" forces to maintain peace in the Darjeeling hills but the state had failed to deploy them properly.
"The Centre has already sent enough forces to maintain peace in the hills. Without deploying the forces properly, the state has been demanding more," additional solicitor-general Kaushik Chanda told the division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Nishita Mhatre.
The state government contested the Centre's claim and accused it of not cooperating, prompting the court to direct both sides to renew discussions and draw up a plan soon to restore normality in the hills.
Sources in the state home department said four companies of central forces had already been stationed in the hills before the June 8 flare-up. After reports of violence became more frequent, the state demanded 10 companies of central forces for the region.
"The Centre sent six companies, including three companies of women CRPF personnel and three of the SSB.... As the women CRPF personnel could not be utilised everywhere, we demanded that they be replaced. We had also sought four more companies of CRPF for the hills," a home department official said.
The issue of central forces came up before the high court after a PIL was filed challenging the indefinite agitation called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
The court had earlier asked the Centre and the state to resolve the issue through talks. A meeting was held, but it failed to yield any breakthrough. "At the meeting, the Centre was not ready to accept our demand for more forces. They instead advised us to withdraw forces from Jungle Mahal and deploy them in the hills. But we cannot do that because of security reasons," said another official.
The court today prodded both the governments to take initiatives to restore normality in the hills.
"The people in the hills are suffering because of the ongoing bandh. It is unfortunate that both the governments are sitting idle. Both the governments should not make further delay and sit together to chalk out a plan for restoring peace in the hills," the acting chief justice said.
UAPA poser
The high court today directed the Bengal government to file an affidavit explaining under what law the state had slapped charges under the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act against nine persons arrested in connection with the Bhangar flare-up.

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