KALIMPONG: A day before the third all-party meeting to decide the future of the Gorkhaland agitation, two columns of the Maratha Light Infantry deployed in the hills since June 8 were withdrawn on Wednesday.
“The Army will no longer be assisting civil administration. However, if the state government again sends requisition for forces, Army will be deployed again,” Army Eastern Command PRO S S Birdi told the New Indian Express.
However, Darjeeling superintendent Akhilesh Chaturvedi said that the situation is still tense in the hills. “We will continue our duty of maintaining law and order in the hills,” he said. The move to withdraw the Army gains significance just a day before an all party-meeting of agitating Gorkha parties here on Thursday, the third since the situation in the hills worsened.
The agitating parties had decided in the second all-party meeting on June 20 at Darjeeling Gymkhana Club that the indefinite strike would continue until the Army is removed.
“The next phase of the movement will be decided at the all-party meeting to be held in Kalimpong tomorrow. People are facing problems due to the strike. The nitty-gritties of the agitation will be decided in the all-party meeting,” said Jan Andolan Party (JAP) chief Harka Bahadur Chhetri. JAP will be one of the constituent parties participating in the meeting at its stronghold Kalimpong.
Meanwhile, the Darjeeling engineering department, which was under the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA), was burnt on early Wednesday. Located beside the Darjeeling Secretariat at Lalkothi in Darjeeling, the office contained important files of the GTA.
The incident gains importance in the wake of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee ordering a special audit of central fund allocation to the GTA in the past five years.
A panchayat office in Rajbari in the Darjeeling outskirts and the sericulture office in Kalimpong were also set on fire.
GJM leaders R B Bhujel and Samuel Gurung were detained and released after a few hours, following which GJM supporters surrounded Darjeeling police station for a few hours.