Gorkhaland protesters tried to set fire to five buildings in various parts of Darjeeling district since Wednesday night. There were also unconfirmed reports of 10 vehicles being damaged on the Darjeeling-Sikkim road. The violence was reported despite continued deployment of three columns of the Army in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sonada. Paramilitary and police forces patrolled the streets as hundreds of protesters took out rallies reciting poems of Nepali poet Bhanubhakta Acharya to mark Bhanu Jayanti and carrying placards demanding Gorkhaland.
Protesters tried to set fire to the Dohtrey Salimbung Forest Range Office, Teesta Soil Conservation Rest Shed and the Gorkhland Territorial Administration (GTA) Tourism Information Centre in Darjeeling, Ghayabari Railway Station in Kurseong and the Tamang Development Board chairman’s home in Kalimpong. While the tourism centre in Darjeeling was burnt to the ground, the attack on the development board leader’s house was unsuccessful.
Tamang Development Board chairman Sanjay Mukta told The Indian Express, “They attacked my home last night. I had already left with my family. We are staying in the Dooars.”
The bandh in Darjeeling was temporarily relaxed on account of Bhanu Jayanti, but shops remained shut. Amid the celebrations, three Nepali writers and artistes — Krishna Singmoktan, Prabhat Pradhan and Karma Yonzon — returned their awards to the West Bengal government.
At an all-party meeting on Tuesday, the chairmen and vice-chairmen of 15 development boards that were set up in the Darjeeling hills by the state government were told to resign by 6 pm on Friday. While many board members have submitted their resignation, the chairmen and vice-chairmen have refused to do so. “Who are they to tell me to resign? We have been appointed by the West Bengal government,” Mukta said.
The sole Trinamool municipal councillor in Darjeeling Town, Chung Chung Bhutia, who won ward 31 in the civic polls in May, joined the GJM on Thursday.
North Bengal Minister Gautam Deb (TMC) was barred from entering Panighata, where he had gone to attend Bhanu Jayanti celebrations. The NHPC hydro-electric power plant at Kalijhora in Kalimpong closed operations a day after hundreds of protesters surrounded it, demanding its closure.
Education Minister Partha Chatterjee invited Gorkha leaders for discussions. GJM general secretary Roshan Giri responded, “What will we be discussing with the state government? The only thing we want to discuss is Gorkhaland.”
GJM workers and Gorkhaland agitators plan to gherao the DM and SDO offices on Friday.