In the wake of the crisis engulfing the Darjeeling hills in West Bengal on Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs has said talks among representatives of the State and Central governments and Gorkha leaders will be held in New Delhi on June 19.
Violence was reported across the hills on Thursday and a media vehicle was set on fire after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) called for a complete shutdown in the hills following a raid on its president Bimal Gurung’s residence in Patlebas and ''seizure'' of arms, bows and arrows, baseball bats, sharp weapons, knives and crackers.
The State government has demanded 400 additional Central forces to tackle the Gorkha agitation in the hills. The Centre had sent 1100 central forces.
Lat week, the GJM called for an indefinite shutdown from Monday. The trouble began after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Bengali would be made complusary for all students across the State.
Violence across hills
On Thursday, police personnel retreated from Patlebas following incidents of pelting of stones and clashes between the protesters and security forces.
GJM general secretary Roshan Giri told PTI, “The State government is indulging in witch-hunting. The government is provoking us to call an indefinite strike in the hills. We will inform the Centre about the atrocities of the State government.”
The raid on Mr. Gurung's residence came on the fourth day of the GJM-sponsored strike in the government and GTA offices in the hills.
Early in the morning, police broke open the main gate of Mr. Gurung's house. He was not present at that time.
Sources in the GJM said the ''weapons'' seized were actually their traditional equipment. "We are tribals, about to hold our traditional archery competition... they showed our traditional equipment as weapons. This is why we need Gorkhaland, our rights, our culture, our heritage, our traditions are not respected".
GJM activists arrested in Singmari, Patlebas
Police said some GJM activists were arrested in raids at Singmari and Patlebas.
A senior police official told PTI on condition of anonymity, “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.”
SP justifies police action
Darjeeling Superintendent of Police Akhilesh Chaturvedi justifed the police action, saying: "We had information that the GJM was gathering arms, and accordingly the raid [in Mr. Gurung's house] was conducted. We recovered bows, arrows, three or four firearms and a large amount of cash. We are exploring all legal options. [We] don't think any peace-minded person will store such arms," he said, adding that two persons have been detained.
On Wednesday, schools, colleges and markets remained open in the hills but the sight of a few burnt cars in the narrow lanes of Darjeeling town bore witness to the violence that the hills had seen on June 8 over the demand for Gorkhaland.
(With inputs from PTI)