Darjeeling unrest: Violence continues in the region as home ministry deploys more security personnel

The violence and unrest that has spread through the northern West Bengal districts continued into Friday after suspected Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters set fire to multiple government establishments late on Thursday night.

Among the structures destroyed on Thursday, GJM supporters torched the Gayabari station of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway — which was declared as a heritage site by UNESCO, a health-care centre in Lodhama, a hydel project in Rimbik, the panchayat building at Mirik, an electricity supply office, a police outpost and several vehicles including some belonging to the media, according to reports. The GJM, spearheading protests for a separate state of Gorkhaland, had called for an indefinite bandh after police teargassed and attacked crowds protesting on the streets earlier this week. 

Thursday's violence was reported right after the police raided GJM chief Bimal Gurung's office on Thursday morning, recovering hundreds of weapons, including arrows, and explosives. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee later blamed intelligence failure for the unrest that followed in the hills, as the GJM-sponsored shutdown entered day four on Friday. ANI reported on Friday that Gurung has responded to the raid, saying the administration attacked his house and party office at the instruction of the chief minister. He also went on to add that GJM members and other Opposition parties will "reply" to the raids.

Meanwhile, the Centre on Thursday rushed 400 additional paramilitary personnel to Darjeeling, taking the total number of security forces to 1,400, to assist the local administration and restore peace in the region, PTI reported.

The West Bengal government on Thursday also transfered Darjeeling deputy superintendent of police Pradip Kumar Singha and replaced him with Avijit Mitra, PTI said in another report. According to a notification issued by the state police directorate, Mitra, who was the Joint Assistant Director, Intelligence Bureau, in West Bengal, will replace Singha who will now serve as the deputy SP of Naida.

The indefinite shutdown called for by the GJM has already started to hamper the tourism industry in Darjeeling, and the region's economy. The Times of India on Friday reported that many foreign tourists are going hungry in these districts, as some Indian tourists were seen leaving the state in a hurry.

 Darjeeling unrest: Violence continues in the region as home ministry deploys more security personnel

File image of Bimal Gurung. AFP

Chief Minister Banerjee has come under severe criticism from Opposition parties for her handling of the situation in Darjeeling. The Communist Party of India on Thursday blamed Banerjee for the violent agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state, saying her "unnecessary promise" earlier was the cause for the fresh round of protests, a PTI report said.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rahul Sinha said, "Mamata Banerjee provoked the unrest in the hills and now she is making the situation even worse with these steps. She should immediately call an all-party meeting in Darjeeling to listen to their demands and sort out the situation,"

The West Bengal government is yet to send a report to the Union Home Ministry about the the unrest that has refused to end so far.

Violent protests first took place in Gorkha-led Darjeeling after the decision to impose Bengali language in all schools from Class I to Class IX in northern West Bengal was announced by the Trinamool Congress government. On 6 June, the GJM took out a procession in the hill during Banerjee's  visit.

The GJM has accused the administration of "high handedness and oppression". "This is a political problem, not a law and order situation. The Government of India and the Government of West Bengal should solve it politically," the party's general secretary Roshan Giri said.

Updated Date: Jun 16, 2017 13:49:50 IST