Thousands of Gorkhaland supporters Monday gheraoed the office of Darjeeling District Magistrate Joyshree Dasgupta in the town, demanding it be shut down, on Day 33 of the ongoing agitation for a separate state. While the rally was conducted peacefully, anger against the DM’s office — which was heavily guarded — as well as the state government was visible. The DM office has issued a number of orders, such as indefinite ban on Internet services, which has made it unpopular. GJM Yuva Morcha leader Amrit Yonzon said: “The gherao is being done for several reasons. The first is that as part of the indefinite strike, we had called for all offices to be shut. But DM office has continued to remain open, and this has been a huge inconvenience for the staff working there. When we have made it clear that only Gorkhaland is acceptable to us, what is the point of the DM running an administration? Another reason is that for nearly a month now, DM has banned Internet in Darjeeling. Students are not able to fill admission forms, and all residents are facing a huge problem.”
On June 8, the DM had also ordered that Darjeeling’s landmark Bhanu Bhavan , the seat of the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA), be sealed for a period of two months. Four CRPF companies were brought in on Sunday evening to ensure security, along with the state police, in the anticipation that the agitation may turn violent as it did on July 8 and 9, when three protesters died due to alleged police firing. Protesters raised slogans such as “DM go back” in addition to their usual slogans demanding Gorkhaland.
“The DM does not behave with us with basic courtesy. I don’t think she ever follows protocols as previous DMs have done,” Yonzon added. Reacting to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s allegations that China was behind the agitations, Yonzon said: ‘’What kind of allegation is that – look around, do any of these protesters look Chinese to you?’’ Purnima Gurung, a protester, said one of the reasons for the anger against the state government is the inhuman treatment meted out to residents in the region. “On the 8th, I was taking one of the dead bodies for postmortem with some boys when our car was stopped in front of the DM’s office. The SP, Akhilesh Srivastav, didn’t even think to ask who was in the car and what we were going for. He simply started slapping the driver and saying ‘you want Gorkhaland, do you?’,” alleged an angry Gurung.
Meanwhile, Darjeeling residents have been waiting for the Presidential election to conclude, as all major decisions regarding the agitation have been put on hold till then. An indefinite hunger strike planned by the Gorkha leadership has been indefinitely postponed. While there is an all-party meeting slotted for Tuesday, GJM insiders said major decisions will only be taken after July 20. However, GJM activists on Monday set fire to a traffic police outpost in Mirik and a flat belonging to the electric supply board in Bijanbari, according to a PTI report, which also said no casualty was reported. However, there were no reports of any casualty, they said.
The small village of Patleybas, home of GJM chief Bimal Gurung and party headquarters, remains fortified with dozens of GJM workers and supporters. Young men and boys carrying khukris man the winding road to and from Patleybas, stop vehicles and ask for identification. Many vehicles are searched, and some are turned away. The road from Darjeeling as well as the highway from Sikkim are garrisoned by the GJM’s “army”, making Patleybas — where the GJM’s top leadership is housed — isolated from the rest of the Hills and the country.