Four additional companies of CRPF are being sent to maintain law and order in Darjeeling and Kalimpong which have been hit by the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland, the Centre today told the Supreme Court. The government told a three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra that 11 CRPF companies are already deployed in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and a decision has been taken to send four more companies to ensure the safety of citizens and maintain law and order there.
Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench, which also comprised A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar, that the Calcutta High Court has today asked the government to deploy four additional companies of CRPF there and they are sending additional paramilitary forces there. The bench made it clear that the 11 companies which are already deployed there and the four additional companies shall be utilised by the West Bengal government only for the purpose of maintaining law and order in the two districts.
The bench also asked the authorities to ensure smooth movement of traffic and safety and security of passengers travelling in vehicles on the National Highway-10, the sole road link connecting West Bengal’s Siliguri with Sikkim. “Needless to say, the citizens of these areas must understand that sustenance of law and order and living in peace is the hallmark of progressive civilisation and therefore, they shall also see that free flow of life is not in anyway disturbed or affected,” the bench said.
The apex court’s order came on a petition filed by Sikkim for a direction to ensure safety of vehicles plying on NH 10 which connects the state with the rest of the country. The Sikkim government has approached the apex court seeking a direction to the Centre and West Bengal that NH 10 be protected and uninterrupted vehicular movement be ensured in the wake of ongoing agitation for separate Gorkhaland. NH 10, also referred to as lifeline of the hill state, connects it to Siliguri and any blockade or interruption on the highway leads to severe scarcity of goods and stalls passengers’ movement.
The plea, filed by Sikkim Chief Secretary A K Srivastav, Lok Sabha MP P D Rai and Rajya Sabha lawmaker Hissey Lachungpa, has sought a direction to the union ministries of Home Affairs, Roads, Transport and Highway and the West Bengal government that the national highway is “kept free” for vehicular movement.
The state government has said the safety of passengers, goods and vehicles should also be ensured besides the uninterrupted traffic on the stretch. The plea has referred to the incidents of violence on June 8 against Sikkim-bound vehicles on the national highway during the Gorkhaland agitation. Sikkim-bound vehicles have been targeted during the protests in and around Siliguri from the last week of June.
Sikkim has been alleging that miscreants were not allowing essential commodities and fuel to be loaded in trucks at New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri and even the West Bengal police was not taking any action. The situation along the national highway in West Bengal has been “worsening” with each passing day, and despite assurances by West Bengal government, incidents of violence and loot of Sikkim-bound vehicles have become a regular affair, officials have said.
According to Sikkim police, 20 trucks ferrying supplies to Sikkim from Siliguri were vandalised and looted and their drivers assaulted. Truck drivers and transporters in Sikkim said they have decided not to ply vehicles if security is not provided.