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13 Jul 2017

Gorkhaland: Protesters attack minister’s car, vandalise buildings; award wapsi begins

Pramod Giri, HT, Siliguri, 13 July 2017: In Darjeeling, a few recipients returned awards received from the state government to protest the government’s stand on Gorkhaland while on Wednesday night, agitators set afire government properties in the hills, including toy train station.
Protesters attacked the car of West Bengal tourism minister Gautam Deb near Mirik on Thursday, the 29th day of Gorkhaland bandh, forcing him to take shelter in an army barrack.

The incident happened at Panaghatta in the morning when he was returning from a function to celebrate the birth anniversary of Nepali poet, Bhanubhakta Acharya.

In Darjeeling, a few recipients returned awards received from the state government to protest the government’s stand on Gorkhaland while on Wednesday night, agitators set afire government properties in the hills, including toy train station.

Among those who returned the awards were Krishna Singh Moktan, former IG (prison), who got Banga Ratna award in 2014, Nepali musician Karma Yonzen, who was awarded Sangeet Ratna in 2016, and educationist Prabhat Pradhan, recipient of Sikkha Ratna in 2015.

Moktan told HT they were returning the awards to express solidarity with the Gorkhaland movement.

Gorkhaland supporters have appealed to Gorkha recipients of state awards to return the same on Thursday, the birth anniversary of Bhanubhakta Acharya, on which GMCC is observing as Gorkha unity day.

According to district police sources, protesters blocked a road using stones to stop Deb’s vehicle and escort car, following which they started throwing stones at the car while some rushed towards the car with khukris (traditional knife used by Gorkhas).

“The minister’s security personnel somehow rescued him and he took shelter in a nearby army barrack,” said a district police official. The minister’s car as well as a police vehicle was damaged.

“This is not a democratic movement. The Union government is encouraging such vandalism instead of reacting positively to state government’s plea for additional deployment of army personnel in the hills. But we are not scared,” Deb told the media.

On Wednesday night, protesters continued to vandalise government properties in the hills, including the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) information centre near Darjeeling’s Chowrasta, Darjeeling Himalayan railway station at Ghayabari, offices of Limbu and Tamang development boards in Kalimpong and the panchayat office near Mirik and revenue inspector’s office at Sukna.

GJM leaders denied involvement of their activists in these acts of vandalism and demanded a CBI probe to find the real culprits.

The Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) formed by 15 hill political parties and organisations on Tuesday has decided to intensify the movement.

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