After the police raided Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung’s office earlier on Thursday, fresh violence erupted in the region as protesters and riot police hurled stones at each other, reported The New Indian Express. A car was also reportedly set ablaze.
The incident started when GJM activists hurled stones at the paramilitary personnel from a distance. The policemen responded by throwing stones back at them.
The GJM retaliated by calling for an immediate and indefinite shutdown in the hills. “The state government is indulging in politics of witch-hunting,” Roshan Giri, the GJM’s general secretary, told PTI. “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 today,” Giri said.
Besides a large amount of cash, the police also found crossbows, arrows, guns, sharp weapons and knives. Gurung was not present when the raids were conducted at his office at Padlebas near Darjeeling. The office was later sealed by the police and two people were detained, Darjeeling Superintendent of Police Akhilesh Chaturvedi told ANI.
Meanwhile, the Home ministry has asked the West Bengal government for a report on the Gorkhaland violence and directed the state government to restore law and order in the region, reported ANI.
The GJM has been demanding a separate Gorkhaland state to be carved out of the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal.
Some GJM members said the materials found were not weapons, but their traditional equipment used in archery competitions. “They showed our traditional equipment as weapons,” GJM Assistant Secretary Binay Tamang, said, according to ANI. “That is why we need Gorkhaland – our rights, culture, heritage, traditions, nothing is respected.”
“The decision to impose an indefinite bandh in the hills has been taken by the party’s central committee,” Tamang told Hindustan Times. Normalcy was slowly returning to the tourist town as schools reopened, even though some incidents of violence were reported. Incidents of stone-pelting were also reported.
The GJM agitation started on June 7 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.
On Tuesday, the Centre had deployed an additional 600 paramilitary personnel to Darjeeling to assist the administration in restoring normalcy in the town. The government also sought a detailed report from the state government on the situation prevailing in Darjeeling.
Gurung had warned tourists to leave the hills or stay back at their own risk as “anything might happen”. “The tourists must understand this. If they wish to stay back, they may do so at their own risk,” he had said on Monday.