KOLKATA: With more than 50 government offices and public properties burnt down in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts since the agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland started on June 8, political parties in the hills have resorted to denial and passing the buck while police waited for the 'right time' to nab the culprits behind the conflagrations.
The public properties gutted include century old libraries, heritage railway stations, sericulture offices and every important structure that could have been assets of the proposed Gorkhaland state. So, why would statehood activists burn buildings that could have been used in the proposed Gorkhaland state?
Trinamool Congress Darjeeling hills district president Rajen Mukhia offers an explanation (read allegation): “Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was embroiled in extensive corruption during the five years it ruled the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA). The government offices contained all the documents that could have proved the graft. The burnings started after Mamata Banerjee ordered a special audit of central funds allocated to GTA in the past five years. Hence, the offices were burnt down to avoid this special audit.”
“Not only libraries and railway stations, but houses of Trinamool Congress workers and ethnic boards members are being set on fire. GJM is trying to exert pressure on Centre and trying to spread a message that they are the final words in the hills,” he added.
Darjeeling SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi echoed the TMC Darjeeling hills president. “Our investigation has found that the GJM supporters are behind these burnings of public properties. We would take necessary action at the right time,” he said. However, Chaturvedi maintained silence when asked when the ‘right time’ was to take action.
On the other hand, Gorkhaland activists said that they were not behind the burnings of public properties. “GJM activists are not behind these burnings and we do not know who are doing this,” said GJM general secretary Roshan Giri.
Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) spokesperson Neeraj Zimba smelled a deep conspiracy behind these burnings. “These buildings are not being burnt by Gorkhaland activists and supporters but by unknown miscreants who want to deceive Gorkhaland supporters and derail the statehood movement,” he said.
“These burnings are going against the spirit of the Gorkhaland statehood movement which is democratic and non-violent. Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) has taken a resolution against all kinds of violence that include arson and burnings,” he added.