Darjeeling unrest intensifies after police raid GJM chief Bimal Gurung’s house
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Kolkata: The unrest in Darjeeling intensified on Thursday after the police conducted a raid on the house of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung and claimed to have unearthed a cache of arms and explosives.
This triggered immediate retaliation: the GJM turned its ongoing partial strike into an indefinite general strike, following which supporters attacked police outposts and set ablaze a bus and a media vehicle.
Akhilesh Chaturvedi, the newly appointed superintendent of police of Darjeeling district, said the arms recovered from Gurung’s home could have been used to attack security forces. The seized material, which included a sack full of cash, firearms, explosives and wireless communication devices, is being examined, he added.
Issuing a strong rebuttal, the GJM said in a statement that only bows, arrows, farm implements such as axes and sickles, and a “couple of boxes of firecrackers” were found at Gurung’s home, which is also used as a party office.
The bows and arrows were kept for an upcoming archery competition, said GJM spokesperson Roshan Giri. Commenting on the cash haul, the GJM said in its statement that being a registered political party, it was allowed to hold “some funds in cash”.
The party said the state was trying to intimidate its supporters and discredit the movement for a separate state of Gorkhaland at a time when different Gorkha outfits have come together, burying old differences.
Violence spread across the district, which the police claimed was unprovoked. The youth and women’s wing of the GJM were to take out a rally on Thursday, but the administration pre-empted it by setting up barricades and check-posts.
In the evening, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said her administration would do everything to restore peace in Darjeeling. “What’s happening in Darjeeling is a conspiracy,” she said, adding that the police will not tolerate any threat to law and order.
Referring to last Thursday’s violence in Darjeeling soon after she concluded a cabinet meeting, Banerjee said the Gorkhas had planned to launch an attack on key ministers and officials. “It was an intelligence failure,” she claimed.
The state has asked the Centre for more paramilitary forces to be deployed in Darjeeling. Currently, around 1,000 personnel of central paramilitary forces are deployed in Darjeeling, said a key official in Kolkata, asking not to be named. But the Centre has not yet made any commitment on providing more security forces, he added.
Meanwhile, GJM’s Giri got an audience with Union home minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Thursday, he and Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker from Darjeeling S.S. Ahluwalia said at a press conference. The GJM has been trying to get the Centre’s attention over the strife, and has been repeatedly asking it to intervene.
On Thursday, the Union home ministry confirmed that tripartite talks would be held on 19 June.