DARJEELING: The agitators demanding a separate Gorkhaland today set aflame a GTA office, a railway station and a forest bungalow and damaged several vehicles amid the unabated violence and arson here in Darjeeling hills on the 29th day of the indefinite shutdown.
The day also saw deployment of three columns of army in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sonada.
The para-military and police forces patrolled the streets and kept a strict vigil as hundreds of agitators took out colourful rallies reciting poems of Nepali poet Bhanubhakta Acharya and carrying placards demanding Gorkhaland.
The GJM and other hill parties celebrated the birth anniversary of the poet during the day.
Internet services remained suspended for the 26th day.
Except pharmacies, all other shops, restaurants, schools, colleges, hotels and private offices remained closed.
The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) office for travel and tourism at Chowrastha-Mall Road in the hill town was set ablaze early this morning. Several government vehicles were also damaged near the Darjeeling toy-train station last night, the official sources said.
A railway station at Gayabari area of Kurseong was set on fire this morning besides a forest bungalow near Teesta river, the sources said.
Meanwhile, a writer and a singer in the hills returned their awards given to them by the state government.
Writer Krishna Singh Moktan, who was also the former Darjeeling inspector general of police, has returned his Bhanu Bhakta Award which he had received in 2004. Singer Karma Yonjan too has returned his Sangeet Samman award.
Both Moktan and Yojnan handed over their awards to Nepali Sahitya Sammelan committee, which will return it to the district administration.
Earlier, Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) had appealed to them to return their awards to the state government.
The National Hydel Power Corporation has shut down its hydel power plant at Ramdi in Darjeeling hills after a mob of over 600 people began agitation outside the plant site, a NHPC official said today.
"We have shut down operation of Teesta Low Dam III plan of 132 MW as a precaution after a mob over than 600 people gheraoed the site and began agitation," the NHPC official told PTI today.
State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee slammed the violent activities in the hills and said that those indulging in it should sit for dialogue.
He said that all development activities in the hills undertaken by the state government were stalled and accused the GJM of harming their own people by resorting to violent agitation.
West Bengal Tourism minister Gautam Deb alleged that Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activists hurled stones at him when he went to Panighata to attend a birth anniversary programme of Nepali poet Bhanubhakta.
"We had gone to Panighata to attend the programme but GJM activists, armed with khukri (Nepalese knife) assembled there and hurled stones at us," he alleged.
The GJM workers also damaged a police vehicle there, the minister charged adding that "this is not a movement but vandalism and the Centre is giving them support."
GJM general secretary Roshan Giri refuted Deb's charge, saying his party had no hand in it.
"We are launching movement in a democratic way. The only solution is Gorkhaland and the Centre should open a dialogue on it", he said.
Chung Chung Bhutia, a TMC councillor of ward number 31 of Darjeeling municipality today met GJM leadership and expressed his desire to join GJM and fight for Gorkhaland.
"I want to join GJM and fight for Gorkhaland. In a day or two I will join GJM," Bhutia said.