KOLKATA: Mamata Banerjee’s top aide and north Bengal development minister Goutam Deb claimed he was attacked by Gorkhaland activists with khukuris (Nepalese dagger) and stones when he went to Panighata near Siliguri to celebrate the 203rd birth anniversary of Nepali poet ‘Adi Kavi’ Bhanubhakta Acharya on Thursday.
However, Gorkha leaders have refuted his claims saying that Goutam Deb was not attacked but only prevented from entering the town that lies in the Darjeeling foothills.
Goutam Deb said, “GJM activists burnt tyres and blocked roads near Panighata. As soon as we cleared the blockade and moved forward, they attacked with khukuris and pelted stones on police vehicles. However, I have not received any injuries. As a citizen of India, I have every right to go anywhere in the country.” Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) had decided to celebrate the birth anniversary of ‘Adikavi’ Bhanubhakta on July 13 as ‘Gorkha Ekta Divas’. However, tension started brewing when residents of Panighata came to know of Goutam Deb’s visit.
“No Bengal minister has ever come to Panighata to celebrate Bhanu Jayanti but Goutam Deb wanted to come here today not to celebrate but to intimidate us, which could have led to more deaths in police firing. We warn all Bengal ministers not to come here till Gorkhaland is achieved,” said GJM central committee member Bindra Kumar Pradhan.
On the other hand, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said the party was not involved in the alleged attack. “GJM was not involved in this incident. They are forcibly pushing our name into this,” he said.
Meanwhile, incidents of government offices being burnt continued with a tourism information centre near Chowrasta in Darjeeling, revenue inspector office in Sukna and a youth hostel in Darjeeling being set on fire on Wednesday night. Apart from this, Gayabari Darjeeling Himalayan Railway station was again set on fire on Wednesday night a few weeks after it was partially gutted during the initial days of the current phase of Gorkhaland agitation.
More than 50 public properties and government offices have been partially or completely gutted in fires set allegedly by Gorkhaland activists.
On the other hand, some 10 Sikkim-registered vehicles taking essential commodities to the Himalayan state were vandalised at Tarkhola near Teesta Bazaar in Kalimpong district on Thursday. Also, several artists who were awarded by West Bengal government returned their awards as a mark of protest on Thursday.