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Darjeeling: Crisis Continues

Darjeeling Gorkhaland Agitation
Peace that dawned in Darjeeling on Mahasaptami Day following a 104 day bandh may not last with the West Bengal government feuding with the Centre. The Centre wanted to withdraw central paramilitary forces from the region. Mamata Banerjee sniffed conspiracy in it and opposed the decision on the ground that it would disturb the law and order situation. The Calcutta High Court has resolved the dispute staying the withdrawal of troops. This round has gone to the West Bengal government though the judiciary and not the executive sorted out the mess. Of course, it has to be admitted that Mamata Banerjee was largely responsible for bringing on the crisis and may not have been entirely justified in saying that the BJP encouraged the Gorkhas to mount the agitation demanding a separate state. Her government antagonised the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) by making Bengali compulsory in state-run schools. Then she had Bimal Gurung replaced by GJM revel Binoy Tamang as Chairman of the Gorkha Territorial administration (GTA). That did not go down well with the last section of the Gorkha leadership.

Admittedly, the Trinamul government never looked favourably at the close ties between the GJM and the BJP. First, Jaswant Singh and then S.S Ahluwalia of the BJP have been representatives of Darjeeling in Parliament. It is not clear whether the BJP supports Gorkhaland though it is in principle in favour of creation of small states. But Gorkhaland is unviable for two reasons. First, it is too small with only three parliamentary constituencies. The reported support of Sikkim puts a new complexion of the scene provided it means merger of Gorkhaland with Sikkim. But that will invalidate the raison d’etre for Gorkhaland. Secondly, Gorkhaland is strategically situated providing a corridor between the North East and China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal. The Centre and the West Bengal government should go all out to work out a sensible settlement without crushing Gorkha aspirations.


More police personnel posted in Darjeeling

West Bengal police in Darjeeling
More than 2,000 additional state police personnel, mostly from specialised forces, have been deployed in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, a top West Bengal police official said on Wednesday.

The officer’s comments came in the backdrop of the Union Home ministry’s statement that paramilitary forces cannot substitute state police and should be deployed only in emergencies. The police officer said on the condition of anonymity that 2,500 state police personnel were already posted in the districts which witnessed a three-and-half-month long shutdown over the demand for a Gorkhaland State.

Press Trust of India

Supporters dilemma over Bimal Gurung, Binay Tamang

Bimal Gurung - Binay Tamang
Siliguri: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders in the Dooars are in a dilemma over who among Bimal Gurung or Binay Tamang they should support.

"In the foothills and particularly, the Dooars, there is utter confusion among most of the Morcha leaders and supporters. They have no idea where our party is heading and whether Bimal Gurung will regain his hold over the hills or Binay Tamang will call the shots," said a Morcha leader in the Dooars.

In the beginning of the statehood movement in June, Morcha leaders and cadres had taken out a few rallies in the Dooars. But they stopped after the split in the party.

"Unlike in the hills, where police restrictions disrupted regular rallies and meetings, such programmes stopped on their own in the Dooars. This is because the Morcha supporters didn't know whether the protests should continue or they should listen to Tamang's appeal for peace," the Morcha leader said.

Another Morcha representative at Kalchini said there was not much pressure from either lobbies of the party in the Dooars.

"The central leadership of the Morcha is now focussed on the hills, barring occasional utterances that the Dooars and the Terai should be included in Gorkhaland. So, a section of Morcha supporters is even thinking of joining Trinamul as there is a complete mix-up within the Morcha," he said.

The latest Gorkhaland movement didn't have much impact in the Dooars, unlike on earlier occasions.

"That was because the central leadership of the Morcha didn't focus on the plains. As there are no clear instructions from the party, it is obvious that they will be confused," an observer said.

Source: The Telegraph

Police officers contest on Bimal Gurung's arms claim

Police claimed Arms seized from camp near Little Rangeet river
Darjeeling: Police officers have said they have concrete evidence to counter Bimal Gurung's claim that he had not stockpiled arms over the past few years and added that all the evidence would be produced in court against the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief.

Gurung had on Wednesday accused the Bengal government of hatching "a conspiracy" to defame him and said that the weapons, including nine AK-47s, recovered from the site of clash on the banks of the Little Rangeet river last week were from surrendered KLO activists.

"In 2014, Assam police had intercepted arms that were being ferried to Darjeeling based on specific inputs from the Subsidiary Intelligence Branch, which is a central government agency. Two persons, Umesh Kami and Ganesh Chhetri, had been arrested. Kami was a GLP cadre and worked as a driver for Gurung. Chhetri was a middleman," said a senior Bengal police officer.

"Kami is still behind bars. During investigation, Yuva Morcha leader and former GTA Sabha member Sanjay Thulung's name had cropped up and a warrant was issued against him in Assam. Will Gurung now claim that Kami was not with him? Why was Thulung suspended from the party then? Did Assam police also conspire against him three years ago?" he asked.

The officer said that the arms that had been intercepted by Assam police in August 2014 were the third consignment and two previous ones had already reached the hills by then. The arms had allegedly been bought from the Nagaland-based NSCN (K) group.

The police officers also spoke of alleged trips Yuva Morcha president Prakash Gurung had made to Nepal during the strike.

"Prakash Gurung went to Nepal twice in August and September, when the strike was on, to get arms. The weapons were smuggled through Maney Bhanjyang. We now have evidence to prove whose vehicles had been used for the trips, the details of the middlemen and how many times the vehicles had been changed," said the officer.

The officer said the gelatine sticks recovered from the hills had been stolen from the godown of a hydel project situated at Negi under the leadership of Yuva Morcha leaders Rikash Theeng and Bhim Subba on July 20.

Sources said that the person arrested from the Little Rangeet camp after the clash had revealed that 15 to 16 boys stayed there and Gurung frequented the place.

"Gurung also stayed at a camp near Glenburn tea garden at Lapcha busty. He later came to the camp near the Little Rangeet river from Sikkim," another officer said.

Political analysts pointed out that Gurung would be further alienated from the hill people and the possibility of him attending any talks if it could be proved that he had been planning to resort to an armed struggle

Giri house

Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, claimed on Thursday that the police had vandalised his house in Darjeeling. The police denied the charge.

Source: The Telegraph

Roshan Giri alleges police vandalized his house

Police vandalised Roshan Giri house
DARJEELING: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) General Secretary Roshan Giri has alleged that West Bengal Police ransacked his residence around midnight on Wednesday.

"Around 12.45 a.m., police broke open the door and vandalised my house. They took away my computer, two printers and a suitcase of documents," Giri said.

Meanwhile, a Darjeeling court on Wednesday issued a proclamation order against GJM chief Bimal Gurung and five others, including Roshan Giri, in connection with the June 8 incident in Darjeeling.

On June 8, the day Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held her cabinet meeting in Darjeeling, GJM workers went on rampage demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.

They indulged in arson and pelted stones at police, injuring 15 in the violence that erupted near Bhanu Bhawan on the tourist hub Mall Road, that was virtually taken over by the GJM workers.

The Gorkhaland agitation was withdrawn after 104 days.

In a recent development, Amitava Malik, a Sub Inspector of West Bengal Police, was killed and four policemen were injured in a gun battle between security forces and the Bimal Gurung faction of the GJM in Darjeeling's Lepcha Bustee near the Sikkim border.

Through police failed to get hold of GJM chief Gurung, they arrested three persons and seized a large cache of arms and ammunition from the GJM camp.


Sombre Celebrations - A Dark Diwali In Darjeeling

Dark Dipawali in Darjeeling
Diwali, or Tihar as the festival is called in the now troubled and traumatised Darjeeling Hills, is a dark one this year. Fear stalks every turn, nook and corner of the Hills, thanks to a silent crackdown launched by the state government against supporters of the Gorkhaland movement. There is anger also at the targeting of “innocent” people by the brutal state machinery and the manner in which the Mamata Banerjee government is going after Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, who is in hiding.

Tihar is the second-most important festival (after Dashain, which coincides with Dusherra) in the Hills and is a five-day affair marked with a lot of festivities and gaiety. With all houses, even the smallest hut of the poorest man, getting a fresh coat of paint, bedecked with flowers and lit up with lamps and fairy lights, with people dressed in their festive best and in a celebratory mood, the Hills are a cheerful place at this time of the year.

But a benumbing darkness has descended on the Darjeeling Hills this year. The Tihar celebrations are perfunctory and people are carrying out the rituals, which involve worshipping and feeding birds and animals, in a mechanical manner. The festive cheer is absent, replaced this time by fear and uncertainty. The heavy and visible presence of state police and central paramilitary forces in riot gear all over the Hills serves as a dark reminder that the state is watching each and every move of the people.

Which it is, say many. “The police are closely monitoring social media posts and are picking up and questioning people randomly for posting comments that are deemed to be in favour of Gorkhaland. Some who questioned the authenticity of the arms haul a few days ago on social media are being targeted and false cases have been slapped on them. Democracy has been totally subverted in the Hills,” said a young Morcha supporter.

So deep is the fear of a vindictive Bengal government crushing even minor dissent that a web-based pro-Gorkhaland portal – The Darjeeling Chronicle – had to warn its readers against posting any comments that could be misinterpreted. “For instance, writing, “we are brave Gorkhas" is okay; but writing "we are brave Gorkhas, and we will show you what we are made of could be interpreted as a threat to someone,” the paper writes in an appeal to its readers. Those running the site say many who have posted angry comments have been picked up for questioning by the police or have been warned over phone.

“We are living in a police state where democracy has been crushed under the boots of the policemen. There is fear all around. Gorkhas are a cheerful lot, but you won’t see anyone smiling on the streets. People are fearful. If a person cannot post anything on social media in support of Gorkhaland without getting arrested, you can imagine the intolerance of the Banerjee government. It is only those who are based outside Bengal or India who are daring to post comments in favour of Gorkhaland or against Banerjee,” said a senior academic who teaches political science at a reputable college.

The academic, who did not want to be named for fear of facing harassment at the hands of the state police, said that very recently, the Darjeeling-based relatives of a young Gorkha man staying in Bangalore, who had posted comments condemning the Bengal police, were contacted by the state intelligence sleuths. “The relatives of this man were told to advise him to refrain from posting anything against the state government or the police or the Chief Minister. They were warned that they would be arrested if their nephew (the Bangalore-based young man) does not mend his ways. This shows that the police are keeping tabs on everyone. The way they traced the relatives of the Bangalore-based man and warned them is very dangerous for democracy. This incident shows we are living under a dictatorial regime intent on snuffing out dissent,” he said.

The machinations of the state government has also triggered rift and suspicion among the people of the Hills. The state government was successful in creating a divide within the Morcha leadership and wean away Bimal Gurung’s close associates Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa. “They (Tamang and Thapa) did not have much support initially. But they had the blessings of the Banerjee government and the state administration then started threatening other Morcha leaders, slapping false cases on them, indiscriminately arresting their family members and applying all sorts of illegal pressure on them to abandon Bimal Gurung and support Tamang. That is the story behind many Morcha leaders and activists switching their loyalties to Tamang. Many, of course, are doing so for personal gains also, especially since the state government has just announced a Rs 634 crore bonanza for the Hills and these people are greedily eyeing a slice of that pie,” said a retired Army officer who is a vociferous supporter of Gorkhaland.

“People are afraid of voicing their opinions freely even in front of relatives, neighbours and friends. One never knows who has become an ‘informer’ and will carry tales to the police. No one wants to get into trouble and have false cases slapped against them,” said the army officer, adding that such conditions existed in the communist dictatorships of the past. The ‘dark state’ is feared in the Hills, and democracy has been subverted by the state government.

Darjeeling Lok Sabha MP S S Ahluwalia has also warned against all this. In a statement, the Union minister said that “bullets, jail and violence” will not solve the problem in the Hills. Ahluwalia alluded to the ongoing hunt for Bimal Gurung and warned the state against killing him. “I fear for his (Gurung’s) life,” Ahluwalia said. The Bengal government has slapped many cases against Gurung, his wife and other associates and has been trying to nab him. A police sub-inspector died in an alleged exchange of fire near Darjeeling a few days ago when police, acting on a tip-off about the presence of Gurung in a hideout, went to raid it. Later, the state police claimed to have recovered a huge haul of sophisticated arms and ammunition from the alleged hideout. Gurung has, in a statement issued on Wednesday, contested the police version and has also denied that his supporters or associates had fired at the police party that led to the death of the sub-inspector.

The day after the death of the police officer, houses of five close associates and neighbours of Bimal Gurung went up in flames. Police claimed that Morcha activists set fire to the houses to destroy evidence. But the police claim has few takers and the popular belief is that the police set the houses on fire to avenge the death of the police officer.

This incident has triggered widespread anger among the people of the Hills. But they are fearful of expressing their anger in any overt form. The fear of arrests, being implicated in false cases and of being threatened and beaten into submission, looms large over the Hills. That is why, perhaps, the people of the Hills are expressing their anger in a covert way: by shrouding themselves in sombre darkness during Diwali.


Bimal Gurung links with Northeast Militant group and Maoists - Bengal DGP

West Bengal Director General of Police Surajit Kar Purkayastha
Siliguri: Bengal director-general of police Surajit Kar Purkayastha said on Wednesday that Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung and some of his associates had links with Northeast-based militant groups and Maoists.
The DGP said the police raid on a jungle camp allegedly housing Gurung and his associates on the banks of the Little Rangeet river on Friday morning was "successful" as a huge cache of arms had been seized.
"The operation carried out a few days ago, which led to the death of one of our young and brave officers, was successful. A huge cache of firearms and other items were recovered. We already had information about the links of Gurung and others with Northeast-based insurgents and Maoists. Now, it has been proved again. Some outsiders, anti-nationals, are also involved in this," he said at Bagdogra before leaving for Calcutta after a two-day tour of the hills.
Purkayastha said the police had identified all those who were with the Morcha chief.

Source: The Telegraph

Darjeeling Administration asks bonds of Rs 50 lakh to 3 morcha leader

Darjeeling district magistrate office
Darjeeling: The Darjeeling administration has asked three Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders and supporters to explain why they should not execute surety bonds of Rs 50 lakh each for "good behaviour" as ordered by the deputy magistrate.
Subrata Chakraborty, the deputy magistrate of Darjeeling, had issued notices under Section 107 of the CrPC to Jyoti Kumar Rai, the assistant general secretary of the Morcha, Nim Dorjee Tamang, a party leader from Ghoom, and Dhana Tamang, a supporter from Darjeeling.
Chakraborty's order stated that there was information that the three were a threat to "property and life of the public" and there were newspaper reports about them being actively involved in organising and funding "public unrest, arson, attack on policeman and public in general since June, 2017" across the hills.
The Morcha trio have been directed to be present at the sub-divisional magistrate's office on October 30. They are perceived to be close to Morcha president Bimal Gurung.

"Now, therefore being satisfied that it is necessary for public peace, in exercise of power conferred upon showcause why they should not execute bond for good behaviour of Rs 10 lakhs each with Registered Sureties of like amount each from Darjeeling District Court and also two reputable persons and two relatives as sureties of like amount each," the order reads.
A lawyer said: "They can either file a petition challenging the notice or agree to execute the bonds. The period of such bonds is normally six months and not exceeding one year."

 Source: The Telegraph