KOLKATA: Calling the 12-hour bandh by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) ‘illegal’, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee filed an FIR under non-bailable charges against GJM chief Bimal Gurung and general secretary Roshan Giri after their activists allegedly set an under-construction Industrial Training Institute (ITI) building at Mungpoo in Darjeeling district on fire on Friday.
The GJM had called for the bandh in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts after Banerjee held a cabinet meeting there on Thursday. Apart from the gutting of the ITI building and protests held in front of state buses in Kurseong, the bandh remained largely peaceful.
“Six companies of Army personnel were dispatched from Darjeeling cantonment of which three went to Darjeeling, two to Kalimpong and one to Kurseong. There were no reports of clashes,” Army’s Eastern Command chief public relations officer S S Birdi told the New Indian Express. “Army was not sent to Mirik, but the town remained peaceful and completely shut,” a police official from Mirik police station said.
Threatening strict action against anyone who responded to the bandh call, Banerjee threatened to deduct salary of any government employee who skipped office on Friday and also formed a three-member team to conduct special audit of funds received by Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) in the last five years. She sought a report within 15 days and promised strict action against any GTA member, even its chairman, if found guilty of misappropriation of funds.
On the other hand, GTA chairman Bimal Gurung said he was the ‘chief minister of the hills’ and as an ally of the NDA, would send a report to Centre on atrocities by West Bengal police on protesters in Darjeeling on Thursday. As a result of the clashes, thousands of tourists were stranded in the hills.
The state government ran free buses between Siliguri and Darjeeling and ensured that private airlines increase flights between Bagdogra and Kolkata airports to evacuate more than 10,000 stranded tourists. Locals also came forward and cooked food for the tourists in the open. Banerjee has vowed to remain in Darjeeling till every stranded tourist was evacuated.