Featured Image: A primary hospital at Lodhama in Darjeeling up in flames and (right) a torched school in Mirik.
By A Newsman
Siliguri, 16 June: DARJEELING Hills is literally on fire with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) cadres setting ablaze one after another government properties all over the Hills.
The arson are aimed at compelling the Centre intervene in the Hills as a face-saver to GJM that finds itself in a tight spot after the state government ordered a special audit of the funds given to semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) ruled by GJM in the past five years, believe senior officials of the state police and a section of political observers.
The three MLAs of the GJM too have reached Kolkata to meet Governor K N Tripathi at the Raj Bhavan to press for Central intervention.
Since late yesterday night and until mid-day today, as many as five more government properties have been burned down in the Hills. This includes a hospital and a primary school.
Yesterday evening through early in the night, GJM cadres had set fire to two cars, a government bus, a government guest house, one police outpost, and a rail station of the world heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR).
More and more government offices are being attacked or torched every hour but the news are getting delayed because of the remote nature of road communications and inadequate tele-communications in the Hills.
After burning down Gayabari rail station of the DHR around 9.30 pm yesterday, post-midnight suspected GJM cadres set fire to fire to a primary health care hospital attached to Rammam Hydro Power Project at Lodhama in Darjeeling sub-division. A customer care centre of the West Bengal Power Distribution Company Ltd was torched at the same place.
Similarly, at Mirik sub-division ~ a primary school named Pahila Gaon School and the Pahila Busty gram panchayat office ~ were also torched in the dead of night. A gram panchayat office at Bum Busty in Kalimpong too have been burned down.
This is even as the GJM calleed indefinite general strike in Darjeeling Hills entered its second day today and shops, markets are completely shut. Also, beginning today, the tea gardens and cinchona plantations in the Hills have also been shut down following the arrest yesterday of GJM women wing leader Karuna Gurung, who also happens to be a tea trade union leader.
With no private vehicles plying anywhere in the Hills, tourists and local residents with emergency needs have been stranded in Darjeeling town. Police are arranging government buses to escort them to Siliguri.
To stop GJM activists from marching into the heart of Darjeeling town, administration has deployed additional CRPF personnel at Patleybas and Singmari where the party headquarters is located and so is the residence of party chief Bimal Gurung. These include one company of women CRPF personnel.
As part of the security beef up, two more senior IPS officers ~ Ranvir Kumar and Vivek Sahay ~ have reached Darjeeling today noon.