NEW DELHI: Four additional companies of CRPF are being sent to maintain law and order in Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal which have been hit by a violent agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland, the Centre today told the Supreme Court.
In an apparent appeal for maintenance of peace there, the apex court also said that the citizens of these districts "must understand that sustenance of law and order or living in peace is the hallmark of progressive civilization" and they should strive to ensure that peace is not jeopardised.
The government told a three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra that 11 CRPF companies were already deployed in the two districts and it has been decided to send four more companies to ensure the safety of citizens and maintenance of law and order there.
Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench, which also comprised A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar, that Calcutta High Court has directed the government to deploy four more companies for maintaining peace, law and order so that there is free flow of traffic to Sikkim.
The bench made it clear that 11 companies which are already deployed and the four additional companies, which will be sent, shall be utilised by West Bengal government only for the purpose of maintaining law and order in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and "shall not be used or diverted for any other purpose".
"Ordinarily saying, we would have closed the case, but we are obliged to say that the central government shall carry out the obligations that has been stated before this court and the entire administration of the State of West Bengal shall provide all the requisite support so that peace is continuously maintained in the areas of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts," the bench said.
"It is apposite to state here that the citizens of these districts must understand that sustenance of law and order or living in peace is the hallmark of progressive civilisation and reflective of the accentuated culture and, therefore they shall also treat it as a part of their duty that free flow of peaceable life is not in any way jeopardised or affected."
During the hearing, Venugopal handed over a written note prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to the court and said they were sending four additional CRPF companies to these districts.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing for West Bengal government, told the bench that the Centre "should not withdraw CRPF companies from Naxal-affected areas as the state does not want any problem in such areas".
He also told the court that the Centre has deployed only seven companies of CRPF as of now in the state. MHA's Joint Secretary R K Mitra, who was present in the courtroom, told the bench that the ministry will have to withdraw CRPF companies from "somewhere" so that they could be sent to Darjeeling and Kalimpong. "Why you have not told the Calcutta High Court that you will have to withdraw companies from somewhere? As a court of law, we can direct (for deployment of additional companies). We can say provide security.
How will you manage, you see it," the bench said. Venugopal also told the court that CRPF companies would also ensure smooth functioning of vehicular movement on National Highway-10, the sole road link connecting West Bengal's Siliguri with Sikkim.
In the written note submitted by the Attorney General, the MHA has said "responsibility of maintenance of law and order and ensuring for free movement of foodgrains on the National Highways in order to ensure supply of essential commodities vests with the state government".
The ministry has also said that CRPF personnel were supporting the police and the state armed police forces to deal with the situation. "To improve the situation, the central government has taken up the matter with the Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal to ensure that supply lines to Sikkim are not disrupted by the protests affecting the movement of essential goods to Sikkim," it said.
The ministry has also said that the Defence Secretary has been requested to instruct army formations in the area to facilitate movement of vehicles carrying petroleum products and other commodities through army convoys.
It said the Centre has requested the Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to ensure supply of adequate stock of petroleum products in Sikkim, besides asking National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) to ensure supply of adequate stock of foodgrains and other essential commodities in the state.
The apex court was hearing a petition filed by Sikkim seeking a direction to West Bengal and its Director General of Police of State to ensure that National Highway 10 is kept free for vehicular movement of passengers and goods to and from Sikkim.
Sikkim has also sought a direction to the Centre and West Bengal to ensure that vehicles carrying foodgrains and other essential items, vegetables from the markets in and around Siliguri, oil tankers and trucks carrying LPG are not prevented from transporting them to Sikkim and there should be adequate security.