KOLKATA: Darjeeling’s bracing air crackled with rancor after police raided the office of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and found an assortment of weapons, traditional and modern, and the rebellious party replied with violence against state institutions.
The police raid on a GJM office at Patlaybas near the residence of the party’s boss Bimal Gurung in Darjeeling found cross-bows, night-vision equipment, khukris, axes and firecrackers. Responding to the raid, GJM protesters pelted stones, allegedly hurled bombs, fired shots at police ranks and set a media van on fire. Away from Darjeeling, a police outpost was torched in Kalimpong and an NBSTC bus at Kurseong.
The raid came on the fourth day of the GJM strike in government offices in the hills against a proposal by the Mamata Banerjee regime to make Bangla compulsory in schools. The anti-Bangla stir has segued into an agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state.
While Gurung went underground after the raid, GJM called for a total strike in the hills. It sought central intervention in the state and called for President’s Rule to be imposed.
GJM assistant general secretary Benoy Tamang explained the arsenal: “We are tribals and we were about to hold our traditional archery competitions. The police are showing our traditional equipment as weapons. This is why we need Gorkhaland.”
In the face of a surge in violence in Darjeeling, chief minister Mamata Banerjee remained firm in her resolve to deal with it with an iron fist. “I will give my blood but will not let Darjeeling turn into hell,” she said in Kolkata.
At the same time, she said there was an intelligence failure that led to the flareup of violence on June 8. “Darjeeling was an intelligence failure. There was no clue that the situation would be so tense there. I have never seen so many Molotov cocktails blasting at the same time,” she said.
The Centre on Thursday rushed four companies of paramilitary forces to join the 11 companies (1100 personnel) already deployed in Darjeeling, ostensibly to help the state administration contain the violence.
However, the GJM is actively lobbying important personages in New Delhi on the merits of its case.
Its general secretary Roshan Giri and the BJP’s Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia met Union home minister Rajnath Singh Thursday evening and apprised him of the prevailing situation and sought his intervention.
“We have apprised the home minister. We have urged him for immediate central intervention to bring back peace,” Giri told reporters after meeting Singh.