The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) announced an indefinite strike in the Darjeeling hills on Thursday, after a morning raid by the West Bengal Police on its party offices. Supporters of the group, who came out to protest the ‘police atrocities’, clashed with security personnel. A police outpost and a vehicle were torched, and stone-pelting and sloganeering were reported.
In the raids this morning, police seized sophisticated cross-bows, a huge cache of arrows, large number of crackers, one country-made pistol, Khukris, axes and cash from inside the office. Following this, there was a heavy deployment of troops in Singmari and Patlaybas, where personnel weren’t allowing people to gather in groups.
Assistant General Secretary of GJM, Binay Tamang told reporters, “Following the police atrocities on our democratic movement, we have decided to call an indefinite strike at the hills.” Since the raids this morning, GJM Chief Bimal Gurung has gone underground.
Darjeeling unrest live updates:
4.40 pm: Communist Party of India blames Mamata Banerjee for “violent” agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state. “Unnecessarily, Mamata Banerjee has given them some sort of hope on statehood earlier. That’s the reason it (the agitation) has again come up,” CPI General Secretary S Sudhakar Reddy told PTI.
3.30 pm: Police also recovered more than 300 weapons, including arrows and explosives in raids on premises connected with Gurung.
3.10 pm: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s Patlaybas office in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district sealed.
2.50 pm: The Home Ministry has directed the state government to ensure law and order in the region. The ministry is monitoring the developments.
2.45 pm: BJP state vice-president Chandra Kumar Bose, responding to today’s developments, told ANI, “The Gorkhas belong to India, but the state government has alienated them to such an extent that they lost their belief of belonging to this country. It is the identity crisis which has initiated such violence.” He held the Mamata-led government accountable for the escalated tension in the region, and said that the problem cannot be solved by providing funds or forming the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).
2.25 pm: The police have confirmed that some party activists were arrested during the raids this morning.
2.20 pm: The Centre has sought a detailed report of the situation from the state government. Today’s the fourth day of the GJM-sponsored strike in the region. Yesterday, the group said it wouldn’t stop its campaign until a separate Gorkhaland state is created.
2.15 pm: GJM said its Women Morcha was to hold rallies in different parts of Darjeeling today. However, the police is seen preventing any assembly of people. The Centre dispatched 600 paramilitary forces to the violence-hit hills earlier this week, to help the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government restore normalcy in the region.
2.10 pm: Since the raids this morning, GJM Chief Bimal Gurung has gone underground. Also read: Who is Bimal Gurung? Click here.
2.05 pm: Heavy stone-pelting is underway, with incidents of arson reported as well. A police outpost on Kalimpong has been torched as well. Protesters are raising slogans saying the situation may turn into another Kashmir. There’s heavy deployment of armed personnel in Singmari and Patlaybas, to prevent any untoward incidents.
2.00 pm: In response to the raids, GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri had said, “The state government is indulging in politics of witch-hunting. The GJM is being targeted as we are fighting for a separate state. The police and the state government are trying to frame false cases against us.”
Regarding the recovery of weapons, he said, “What have they found? Khukri is part of our tradition, what is the harm in keeping it? Bows and arrows are traditional weapons. They were meant for students for archery competition.”
“The present situation in the hills is created by the state government. They want to suppress us using huge police force”, he was quoted as saying by PTI.
1.53 pm: The unrest in the hills began after security forces raided the premises of the GMJ party in Singmari and Patlaybas areas of Darjeeling in the early hours of Thursday. Commenting on the operation, 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.”
Soon after the raids were conducted, clashes between security forces and supporters of the group broke out in the hills.
1.45 pm: A vehicle is set ablaze allegedly by supporters of the GJM, who are also reportedly pelting stones at security personnel.
(With inputs from agencies)