Featured Image: Representational photo.
By Newsmen Bureau
Kolkata, 14 July: CENTRE is rushing in four more companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to the strife-torn Darjeeling Hills.
This comes amidst the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha called indefinite shutdown in the Hills completing one month today and suspected GJM activists torching at least six more government properties in the Hills to press for a separate Gorkhaland state.
Centre is sending the troops following a directive from Calcutta High Court today and a subsequent assurance by Centre in the Supreme Court stating that it was sending four companies of the CRPF to Darjeeling as has been ordered by Calcutta HC. Earlier, Centre had turned down state government’s request for more forces for Darjeeling.
The four CRPF companies are expected to move into the Hills tomorrow evening of early Sunday. They are being mobilised from Assam, sources said. They would join 11 companies of Central troops that are already deployed in the Hills.
Advocate Ramaprasad Sarkar of Kolkata had moved a public interest litigation in the High Court demanding restoration of normality in Darjeeling.
Simultaneously, the Sikkim government filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Centre and the Bengal governments to ensure smooth movement of vehicles on National Highway 10 that connects Sikkim to Siliguri and the rest of the country.
This after GJM supporters frequently blocked Sikkim vehicles in the Hills and anti-GJM public stopped them from entering Siliguri. Movement of vehicles carrying food supplies and medicines from Siliguri to Sikkim is also being hindered at Siliguri over Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling writing to the Centre supporting GJM’s demand for Gorkhaland.
Hearing the PIL by advocate Sarkar, a Calcutta High Court bench headed by acting Chief Justice Nishita Nirmal Mhatre directed the Centre to send four companies of CRPF to Darjeeling within 48-hours. The bench also asked the state to take adequate steps to restore peace in the Hills and failing this, the court said that it would directly intervene in the matter.
Soon after the High Court issued the directive around noon, Sikkim government’s petition came up for hearing in the Supreme Court. A three-judge division bench headed by justice Deepak Mishra asked the Centre as to what it was doing to ensure movement of vehicles on NH-10.
In response, Centre’s counsel told the court about Calcutta HC’s directive and said that Centre was rushing in four more companies of the CRPF to Darjeeling on the condition that those would be deployed only in the Hills.
Suspected GJM cadres last night torched as many as six more government properties all over the Hills. These include the Munshi Premchand Memorial Library at Mirik, Railway Protection Post attached to Darjeeling Himalayan Headquarters at Kurseong, Gokul Lodge at Dudhia, Sericulture Office at Pulbazar near Bijanbari, Batasi Rest House at Manebhanjan, and the police check-post at Sukhiapokhri.
During the day today, thousands of Gorkhaland supporters demonstrated in front of DM, SDO, and BDO offices all over the Hills against the hindrance to food supplies from Siliguri to Darjeeling.
Even as an indefinite shutdown is on, Hills people have been sustaining on essential items ferried from Siliguri and sold through backdoors by the traders in the Hills. But anti-Gorkhaland public has now stopped the supplies from Siliguri demanding that the strike in the Hills be first called off for food items to be transported.