The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha’s (GJM) indefinite strike in Darjeeling to press the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland has been on for more than 100 hours. With more than 140 GJM activists being arrested since the protests began, the state government is also looking at putting GJM chief Bimal Gurung behind bars on a pending case against him.
On 9 July Gurung was granted bail in a case from February 2011, which had charges of criminal intimidation, attempted murder of a government employee and possession of illegal arms. “He must know of the plan to revive the case. In July, there was no one to oppose, so he got bail, but now he could be in trouble,” an official said.
While addressing his supporters yesterday, Gurung said, “The strike will continue without relaxation as long as the people want it. The current public mood is against lifting the indefinite strike and hence the strike will continue. We might only relax the strike for Independence Day celebrations.” He added, “If anyone has problems with ration, they can come to me and I will provide ration to them.”
The Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal has also made several changes in the hill administration by reshuffling a number of senior IAS & IPS officers, hoping to delineate the ongoing agitation innocuous. Punit Yadav is likely to take charge from Saumitra Mohan as the District Magistrate soon.
After a visit to Siliguri, Dooars and Terai, Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee reached Darjeeling today. The mounting pressure in the hills was felt at his reception, where agitated GJM supporters first refused to let him enter. Later, they blocked the way of the senior bureaucrat, forcing him to walk from the Darjeeling SP’s office to the DM’s office. The Home Secretary is scheduled to give a report to the chief minister on the situation in Darjeeling.
“We created 37 departments, which was never done before. Powers are also being handed over in compendium. Lot of work has been done, and the hills will witness a wave of development if things are allowed to be on track,” the Home Secretary told reporters today, refuting Gurung’s allegations that nothing much was done for the hills. He also added that for the first time in many years, positive steps were being taken to develop the region, and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration formed via an electoral process last year, was a big leap towards it. Banerjee also pointed out that the West Bengal government had been very cooperative, and at least ten meetings were held with the GJM top brass to put things in place.
As the indefinite strike reached its fifth day, the administration deployed more forces and stepped up vigil, not willing to take chances.
Gurung, who was earlier scheduled to leave for Delhi reportedly to present his case before Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, had to cancel his plans after failing to seek an appointment. But sources in the West Bengal government believe that he planned to depart from the area because he got a whiff of the government’s plan to apprehend him. “I was supposed to meet him tomorrow but he seems to have a busy schedule. Our team in Delhi is working on the appointment and it should come through within the next three or four days. I will leave for Delhi once the appointment is finalised,” Gurung said.
Shankar Chakraborty, Deputy Inspector General (Special) of the Crime Investigations Department of West Bengal, admitted before the media yesterday that the government would appeal before court for Gurung’s arrest. However, political observers believe if the government goes ahead with his arrest, it could end up working against them. The sympathy factor will hit the skies, and the movement – which is so close to the sentiments of the hill citizens, will only grow stronger, they claim.
Meanwhile, police have apparently begun the procedure to revoke Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Roshan Giri’s passport and are considering a similar action against Bimal Gurung, a move that is being seen as the government’s efforts to put further pressure on the agitating party.
Gurung and Giri, who are spearheading the Gorkhaland statehood agitation, procured their passports in 2012 under the Tatkal scheme. The Darjeeling police had sent an adverse report on Giri’s passport to the regional passport office in Calcutta while state intelligence branch officers said Gurung and Giri had cases of rioting, arson and damage of government property against them.