Darjeeling: Police recovered 300-400 weapons, including arrows, and explosives in raids on premises connected with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, sparking a call by the separatist group for an indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling hills.
In the fog-shrouded hilly roads of Darjeeling, GJM activists sparred with paramilitary personnel, hurling stones from a distance. The policemen responded by throwing stones back as a car burnt nearby. It was not clear if the car was that of a civilian or belonged to the police.
Police said some party activists also were also arrested in the raids in Singmari and Patlebas areas of Darjeeling.
The developments came a day after Gurung said that his group's campaign for a separate Gorkhaland state would go on till it was achieved. He has asked tourists to avoid Darjeeling, a tea-growing region of West Bengal state and also one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.
"Some of the premises of Gurung and other GJM activists were raided. We conducted the raids on the basis of concrete information. The raids are still on. We have arrested a few GJM activists", a senior police official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
The police, however, denied that Gurung's residence had been raided.
Following the raids, the GJM called for an indefinite shutdown in the hills from Thursday.
"The state government is indulging in politics of witch-hunting", said GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri.
"The police and the state government are provoking us to call an indefinite strike in the hills. We will inform the Centre about the atrocities of the state government. We have called an indefinite shutdown in hills from Thursday," Giri told PTI.
On the recovery of weapons, the GJM leader said, "What have they found? Khukri is part of our tradition, what is the harm in keeping it? Bows and arrows are traditional weapons. They were meant for students for archery competition".
"The GJM is being targeted as we are fighting for a separate state. The police and the state government are trying to frame false cases against us", he alleged.
Giri said the Centre and the state government should solve the "political problem".
"We will inform the Centre of the police atrocities and seek Centre's intervention", Giri who is in Delhi, told PTI over phone.
"The present situation in the hills is created by the state government. They want to suppress us using huge police force", he alleged.
The raids came on the fourth day of the GJM-sponsored indefinite strike in government and GTA offices in the hills. The GJM's call for a separate state of Gorkhaland gained momentum after six other hill parties extended their support and unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday for a new state to be carved out of Darjeeling hills.
The area is largely populated by Gorkhas who resent the imposition of Bengali, the predominant language of the rest of the state.
Prominent among the six states to join GJM is the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), which broke its alliance with the ruling Trinamool Congress.
The Centre has dispatched 600 paramilitary personnel to assist the West Bengal government in restoring normalcy in violence-hit Darjeeling hills which witnessed incidents of stone pelting during GJM-sponsored indefinite bandh.
The Centre had also sought a detailed report on the prevailing situation in the hill district from the state government.
Updated Date: Jun 15, 2017 14:09 PM