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Police lathicharged GJM supporters at the heart of Darjeeling on Tuesday, amid a shutdown of the hills, following a bandh call given by tea gardens unions demanding rise in minimum wages and other benefits. In the morning, GJM supporters took out a huge rally in support of the bandh and the demand for a separate Gorkhaland near Darjeeling’s Chowk Bazar.
They sat on the road and raised pro-Gorkhaland slogans. While the police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the crowd, stones were pelted at police personnel.
Senior police officers like Jawed Shamim, Siddinath Gupta — part of the three-member committee set up by the state government in Darjeeling — were seen with huge police contingents in various parts of the hills. Shamim led the raids around Chowk Bazar, where GJM supporters were chased to clear the main road. GJM workers also blocked roads and took out rallies in Kalimpong, Kurseong, Mirik and other areas.
The GJM, however, accused the police of resorting to unprovoked lathicharge on its rally. “The police resorted to unprovoked lathicharge on a peaceful rally. The more they use force against us, the more intense will be the struggle for a separate Gorkhaland state,” GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told mediapersons.
Later, three persons were arrested from different parts of the hills. Heavy police deployment was also seen at Patlaybas (GJM chief Bimal Gurung’s residence) and the party’s office in Singmari. Gurung, meanwhile, called a meeting of former Armymen on Wednesday to boost agitations. Former Armymen residing in the hills form an integral part of the GJM, and had played a crucial role in the Gorkhaland agitation of 2007.
On Monday — the first day of the shutdown called by the GJM over its demand for Gorkhaland — had recorded “normal” attendance in government offices, though some stray incidents of arson were reported. While the GJM has called for shutdown in central, state government and GTA offices in the hills, it has exempted schools, colleges, transport, hotels and shops from the bandh purview. However, banks will remain open only on Monday and Thursday.