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15 Jul 2017

Toy train head office set on fire

Army personnel patrol the Darjeeling Motor Stand on Friday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
TT, Calcutta, July 14: The headquarters of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was set on fire in Kurseong last night, the third attack on the Unesco heritage property since the current spell of the Gorkhaland movement began in the hills last month.
Suspected Gorkhaland supporters carried out at least three other arson attacks in and around Mirik last night, torching a library, a police outpost and a motel.
The alleged protesters raided the DHR office at Elysia Building, which also houses the hill railway director's chambers, and destroyed the ground floor of the two-storied structure. The DHR operates toy train services in the hills.
"A team of fire-fighters from Kurseong doused the flames and none was injured. So far, there has been no arrest," said a police officer.
The three attacks on the Unesco heritage property - the other two being on the Sonada and Gayabari stations - have triggered concerns that the Unesco might raise strong reservations over the incidents.
Political observers said the repeated attacks on toy train stations had already dented the image of Brand Darjeeling as a tourist destination across the world.
Elsewhere in the hills last night, a library in Ward 5 of Mirik municipality was vandalised and torched by the agitators. The police outpost at Chabbissay near Mirik was set ablaze, while petrol bombs were hurled at the motel run by the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration at Gokul near Siliguri.
The repeated incidents of arson and destruction of government buildings have prompted Trinamul to question the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's claims of spearheading a democratic and peaceful movement.
"Morcha leaders and members of the coordination committee on the movement have time and again said they are leading a democratic protest. But what about the frequent incidents of violence and attacks on common people and the police?" a Trinamul leader asked.
In another development, the chairman of the Sarki development board, Kumar Mangrati, resigned in Kalimpong today. Two members of the Damai and Sherpa boards also put in their papers, on a day the hill parties' deadline to all chairmen and vice-chairmen of the boards to resign ended.
Although most board members who resigned over the past few days said they had done so in solidarity with the statehood movement, many have raised the question whether the deadline imposed by the hill parties had prompted their move. The Gorkhaland Movement Co-ordination Committee had said those who did not step down by Friday evening would be deemed "anti-Gorkhaland".
School appeal
A section of hill schools affiliated to the ICSE board has decided to approach the parties supporting the Gorkhaland agitation over worries surrounding the registration of Class IX and XI students in the wake of the shutdown and the resultant ban on Internet.
The decision came on a day the Darjeeling administration decided to extend the Net ban across the hills till July 25.
The schools need to complete the registration process by this month.

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