Protesting Gorkha Janmukti Morcha members on Monday allegedly set a public works department office and a panchayat officer’s chamber on fire during their indefinite strike in Darjeeling, reported Hindustan Times.
However, party General Secretary Roshan Giri, told CNN-News18 that the buildings were torched by Trinamool Congress supporters. An office of West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited in Sonada, about 15 km from Darjeeling, was also vandalised.
Ten protestors were detained for arson, according to The Times of India, but other reports said the police did not reveal the number of people taken into custody. The situation in Darjeeling continued to be tense with paramilitary forces and police officers patrolling the streets.
Darjeeling District Magistrate Joyoshi Dasgupta said prohibitory orders – Section 144 of the CrPC that bars the assembly of more than four people – are in place around government offices across the town. However, most government offices reported normal attendance. On Sunday, the government said employees’ salary would be deducted if they skipped work on Monday. “Everything is normal and people have already started arriving at offices,” Dasgupta told PTI. “Attendance in school is also normal. We have taken all precautionary measures to check any untoward incident.”
Earlier in the day, GJM chief Bimal Gurung had asked tourists to leave the hills or stay back at their own risk as “anything might happen”. “The situation is turning worse, and anything can happen,” he said. “The tourists must understand this. If they wish to stay back, they may do so at their own risk. I appeal to them [tourists] to leave.”
The agitation started on Wednesday as a protest against the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision to make Bengali a compulsory language in state-run schools, despite the chief minister’s assurance that the new rule would not be imposed in the hill districts. However, the movement soon turned into the revival of the demand for a separate state.
GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri said the party had already written to Home Minister Rajnath Singh about “how West Bengal suppresses us”. They also plan to reach out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about “all the atrocities”. “The state government is doing [this] to suppress Gorkhaland for her [Banerjee’s] own political interest,” he said.