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7 Aug 2017

Forces out at Patlebas, locals fear fresh raid

Jayanta Gupta & Deep Gazmer | TNN | Aug 7, 2017,DARJEELING: A day after the arrest of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) central committee and former Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) member Norbu G Lama from Siliguri, security forces led by SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi carried out a reconnaissance of Patlebas, about 5km from Darjeeling town, on Sunday.
The move sparked apprehensions that authorities may be planning another raid in the area in an effort to nab more GJM leaders.
It was the raid on GJM president Bimal Gurung's house and office in Patlebas on June 15 that resulted in the party calling the indefinite strike that entered its 53rd day on Sunday. Since then and the clashes on June 17 that left two Morcha supporters dead, Patlebas has been out of bounds for security forces. Even the presence of media and townsfolk from Darjeeling in Patlebas, without invitation from GJM brass, has not gone down well with locals.
"On Sunday, police accompanied by CRPF crossed Singmari — about 3km from Darjeeling town — and patrolled the Patlebas area. It seems they are planning something...Rumours are being spread that locals in Patlebas have amassed weapons and are getting ready for violence after August 8. All this is baseless," a GJM leader said.
Over the last several days, police presence in Darjeeling town and its surroundings has been negligible though GJM has taken out regular rallies. According to a police officer, there were instructions not to provoke the crowd and wait for violence to erupt before quelling it. Though armed policemen have been posted at important crossings, they have preferred to remain inside outposts, police stations or vehicles. Even on Sunday, there was no police presence when artists, painters, musicians, writers and poets formed a human chain in the town to press their demand for a Gorkhaland state.
While the stalemate in the Hills continues, the condition of Rakesh Chhetri, one of those participating in the hunger strike at Chowrasta in Darjeeling, turned serious on Sunday, prompting district magistrate Joyoshi Das Gupta to pay a visit. The DM urged Chhetri to get admitted to hospital for intravenous fluids and resume the strike on Monday, but he refused. A dozen Morcha supporters are on hunger strike in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik since July 21. The administration is wary of violence erupting if any of them dies.

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