Darjeeling: Widespread differences and political rivalry between the top leadership of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has once again affected the already painstaking peace process in Darjeeling hills. After yesterday’s vandalism at Sister Nivedita’s memorial Roy Villa by unidentified miscreants, a large number of pro-bandh supporters, including many women, gathered at the main Motor Stand area of the Kalimpong town, Friday morning, and shouted slogans in favour of the indefinite logjam in the hills. Despite the presence of a strong police force in the area, the GJM workers, believed to be supporters of party supremo Bimal Gurung, suddenly turned violent and started pelting stones at them while setting some tyres and a few abandoned materials afire in the middle of the crossroads.
Apprehending that the situation might soon go out of control, the police resorted to a mild lathi charge to disperse the crowd. While none was injured either in stone pelting or the subsequent lathi charge, the crowd continued to pelt stones and other missiles on the security forces from a distance. They did not even spare a school bus carrying little children to the nearby St Joseph Boarding School and attacked the vehicle with stones, breaking a few window panes.Though no child was hurt, they got scared and began shouting for help. However, good sense prevailed upon the agitators soon as they allowed the bus to reach the school compound without causing any further damage.
However, as a result, tension gripped the area and several shops, business establishments and banks, which were open since the morning, downed the shutters fearing more trouble. About 20 GJM supporters, including local councillor Bimala Rai, were arrested from the spot as a preventive measure. They said that a section of pro-bandh supporters also waylaid a government bus from Siliguri to Kalimpong and forced the passengers to get down. They prevented the bus from moving further whule attacking none.
Gurung is believed to have turned desperate to hold on to his supremacy within the GJM as well as the entire Darjeeling hill district. He issued yet another audio tape from his hideout, threatening both the State administration and his archrivals Binay Tamang and Anish Thapa with “dangerous consequences” for trying to bring normalcy to the hills without his approval.
“I shall take the decision about withdrawal of the indefinite strike, and that too after the proposed tripartite meeting involving the union government,” he said and warned the State government and his rival party supporters to be responsible for any further violence and instability in the hills if they violated his diktat.
As a result, a mass fear psychosis has once again descended upon the hills, forcing the people to mostly remain indoors not only in Kalimpong, but also in Darjeeling, Kurseong and even Mirik which is believed to be the ruling Triamool Congress’s stronghold.
It remains to be seen how Binay Tamang and his supporters, who have been trying to bring peace and normalcy in the hills by withdrawing the bandh in consultation with the State government, could deal with the present situation before pressing for their only demand for a separate State of Gorkhaland in the tripartite meeting next month.