Bengal cracks down on GJM: huge cache of arms recovered from Gurung's house
The West Bengal government is contemplating appointing an administrator and postponing elections to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, given the protests in the Darjeeling hills.
State government sources disclosed that this was actively being considered during a high level meeting on Wednesday.
Senior government officials say that the main aim is to restore law and order and curb the influence of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung and ensure he leaves GTA.
Under the orders of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, there has been an administrative reshuffle in the GTA. Home department sources disclosed that the new GTA board is scheduled to be constituted by 1 August and officials have already sent a letter to the state election commission (SEC) apprising it of the situation in the hills. A former government order is likely to be issued in the last week of June.
According to state parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee, “We are looking at all possible opportunities to provide relief to the tourists... the official procedure for appointing an administrator in the hills is yet to be finalised”.
The Opposition parties have urged the state government to immediately convene a tripartite meeting between the Centre, state government officials and GTA officials and sit with the GJM leaders to resolve the crisis, instead of sending police forces to restore law and order.
Ashok Bhattacharya, CPI(M) leader said “We haven't of any decision by the state government to appoint an administrator in the hills. Theyir priority should be to convene a tripartite meeting and resolve the crisis”.
Even state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said that a tripartite meeting is the way out.
The RSS remains non-committal on the issue as it is trying to play both sides. While GJM is a BJP ally and it wouldn't want to offend it, it also cannot be seen to be part of any effort to divide West Bengal.
Jishnu Bose, general secretary of West Bengal RSS said “This is a political decision and we have not yet spoken to the local people of the hills to know their feedback”.
On Thursday, fresh unrest broke out in Darjeeling as the GJM called in indefinite strike in protest against the police action against its leaders.
Acting on a tip-off, the police on Thursday barged into Bimal office at Patlebas and recovered a huge cache of arms, several sharp edged weapons, bows and arrows, radio-sets and unaccounted money.
Similar items were also recovered from Gurung's house as well. In retaliation to the raids, GJM workers tried to set fire to to a mediaperson's car and a guest house in Kalimpong.
A clash broke out between GJM workers and the police at Patlebash and police lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the mob. Around eight companies of central forces were pressed into service to bring the situation under control .
CM Banerjee expressed her concern over the growing violence in Darjeeling said “I want peace in the hills and I do not want such vandalism to continue in the hills. Strict action will be taken against those who are behind this violence”.
Defending the GJM, its general secretary Roshan Giri said, “The bows, arrows and sickle were to be used during a school archery programme to be held on 8 July at Mahidua in Darjeeling. It is not illegal to keep bows and arrows for a school programme.”
However Anuj Sharma additional director general (law and order) said “There were arms inside Gurung’s house as they want to use it against police forces. We received a clear tip-off and sent a team to recover the arms. We have already seized the illegal arms.”