In an early morning raid at the GJM party office in Patlaybas, near the party chief Bimal Gurung’s house, police recovered sophisticated cross-bows, a huge cache of arrows, large number of crackers, one country-made pistol, Khukris, axes and cash. Following the raid, GJM Central Committee announced an indefinite strike in the hills.
Darjeeling SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi said, “We had information that GJM workers were gathering in the area. We raided at three places and recovered firearms, materials which look like bomb-making ingredients, contraband and lethal weapons. We are investigating the entire incident and legal action will be taken.”
A senior police officer said, “We have recovered sophisticated bows and arrows and other weapons after our raid at the party office of GJM.” Senior IPS officer Javed Shamim was present when the raid was carried out.
In response to the raids, Assistant General Secretary of GJM, Binay Tamang said, “Following the police atrocities on our democratic movement, we have decided to call an indefinite strike at the hills.”
Incidents of arson and sporadic clashes broke out soon after the raid. A police outpost in Kalimpong was torched by protesters. Heavy stone-pelting were seen near Darjeeling, with a few protesters using slingshots. They raised slogans saying this will turn into another Kashmir.
Since Thursday morning, heavy deployment of armed police was seen in Singmari and Patlaybas. Interestingly, GJM was scheduled to hold rallies today in different parts of Darjeeling. Police personnel were deployed at various cross-section of major roads in Darjeeling to prevent any untoward incident.
GJM claimed that its Women Morcha was scheduled to hold rallies in Darjeeling. However police raided its party office and prevented any assembly of its supporters. “These are mere bows and arrows and crackers which are not illegal to possess. The police is trying to frame us,” Tamang added. Since the raid GJM Chief Bimal Gurung has gone underground.
On Tuesday, police had resorted to lathicharge on GJM supporters at Chowk Bazar area after stones were pelted at policemen. The agitation by GJM which began in Darjeeling in protest against the “imposition” of Bengali on hill people took a u-turn with the party now demanding a separate Gorkhaland.
The raids come a day after Gurung announced that the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland will continue and asked tourists to avoid visiting Darjeeling. In a statement to the media on Wednesday, Gurung said, “It is not only a matter of tourists. They should try and avoid Darjeeling. Our agitation will go on. Let CRPF and Army men be deployed.”
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This move has prompted BJP’s Darjeeling MP S S Ahluwalia to ask the Union Home Ministry to appoint a committee of experts to look into the demand.
In the meantime, state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also met Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi in Raj Bhavan on Wednesday even as the government appointed C Murugan as the new secretary of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in the backdrop of the ongoing unrest in Darjeeling hills.
Starting out as a protest against the “forced imposition of the Bengali language”, the agitations have now transformed into renewed demands for a separate Gorkhaland.
Responding to the government’s decision, GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri told the Indian Express on Wednesday: “This decision hardly affects us. The GTA has been ineffective. Mamata Banerjee has never allowed it to function. And now if she decides to change the secretary, how does it matter to us? As far as we are concerned, when we have Gorkhaland, GTA is irrelevant.”