GJM party office in Darjeeling set on fire

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Darjeeling: In a major shift in the nature of violence, a party office of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in Darjeeling was completely gutted early Thursday morning, leading to heightened tension between the Gorkhaland supporters and the district administration, even as the strike to demand a separate State for Gorkhas entered its 57th day.

According to our informed sources, a gang of unidentified and masked miscreants raided the empty office of GJM at Chawkbazar area and set it ablaze with petrol bombs before fleeing the scene. Soon, the entire office, along with several office property and important party documents, flags and banners, was reduced to ashes.

As the news of the fire spread in the hills, a large number of GJM supporters gathered on the spot and shouted anti-government slogans. They also blamed the district administration and the police for the fire and the irreparable damage to the party office.

Later, addressing a gathering, senior GJM leader Binay Tamang squarely blamed the security forces for the burning of the party office and alleged that it was done by cops of the West Bengal in plain clothes. “We strongly condemn such cowardly attack on our Democratic movement”, he said.

Both the district administration and the senior police officials denied their involvement in the burning of GJM party office and described the allegation as “baseless”. “In fact, the incident is a fallout of their inner-party struggle that is going on in the GJM,” a senior district official, who did not want to be identified, said and claimed that a section of the party supporters was not happy with the manner in which the leadership was carrying forward the Gorkhaland movement, ignoring the misery of the people because of the indefinite strike in the region.

Following the incident, massive security arrangements were made in the entire Queen of Hills by the district administration, which also maintains a vigil in the area to prevent the recurrence of such incidents and instil confidence among the public in general.

However, in another incident of violence, a school van was attacked by another group of unidentified miscreants at Malbazar area. The attack with sharp weapons left a window screen of the van damaged. No school student was present in the van at the time of the attack and none was injured, informed sources told Hindusthan Samachar and referred to a similar incident on Wednesday when a  newspaper van was torched by the Gorkhaland supporters at the Zero Point area in Kurseong.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to reduce the peoples’ misery in the midst of a complete shutdown, members of a few non-governmental agencies and GJM workers distributed fresh vegetables among the poor and the needy in the hills, which was hugely welcomed by the beneficiaries.

A number of peaceful rallies and processions were taken out by GJM and GNLF supporters including women in different parts of Darjeeling hills on Thursday to reiterate their demand for the creation of a separate Gorkhaland at the earliest. The fast-unto-death programme of the activists, to press for the same demand, continued in several places even as the condition of several participants deteriorated.

Ankur Bhattacharya/Hindusthan Samachar

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