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17 Jul 2017

Row over forces in North Point

CRPF personnel outside the college on Sunday. 
Picture by Passang Yolmo
TT, Calcutta, July 16: Officials of a premier educational institution in Darjeeling today alleged that paramilitary forces had entered the compound to set up camps without permission.
Sources said the forces left the campus of St Joseph's College (North Point) after the authorities raised an objection. The location of the college is crucial to force deployment plans as it is situated barely 200 metres from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's office at Singmari.
Darjeeling district magistrate Joyoshi Dasgupta said a permission had been taken from North Point authorities. A notice requesting accommodation for the forces was pasted on the walls of the college.
The college authorities denied receiving any intimation.
"The college had been under lock-and-key. When we came in, we found that the forces had entered our premises and the lock on the main gate, too, was missing. We did not receive any prior information about them, nor did we give any permission to anybody to use our campus. We cannot allow paramilitary forces to take over our building," a North Point official said.
All educational institutions in the hills have been closed since June 15, when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha gave the call for an indefinite agitation. A premier institution, North Point attracts students from neighbouring countries.
According to officials, private schools and colleges can be taken for government purposes, like during counting of votes, but the administration needs to secure the permission of the authorities.
Sources said one company of central forces arrived near the college around 4pm today following a report by the police to the district magistrate that the Singmari police outpost could be attacked.
The soldiers were part of the four companies that were sent to the hills following a directive to the Centre by Calcutta High Court last week. Each company has around 100 personnel.
District magistrate Dasgupta said the administration had sought permission from the North Point authorities.
"We had sought permission. We do not have other places to keep the forces as most of the government buildings have been torched. We will move the forces once the colleges reopen," she said.
The DM's letter pasted on the college wall said: "In view of the prevailing situation of unrest in the hill areas of Darjeeling district, government premises are not adequate for accommodation of security forces... We request to provide your school building for accommodation of security forces."
Amid the confusion on whether the administration had the necessary permission, the district magistrate specified that the forces would primarily be using the open spaces and not the building.
"They would move into the building only if there is heavy rain," Dasgupta said. "I have heard that the college authorities have been threatened not to allow their building to be used. We are assuring them security," she added.

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