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Bandh call against tea bush clearance

Siliguri, Feb. 1: With tea bushes being uprooted at the Chandmoni Tea Estate since the early hours today, the administration heaved a sigh of relief at the end of the day after there was virtually no resistance from the garden workforce.

Although the operation went off peacefully amidst unprecedented security arrangements, the Chandmoni Cha Bagan Anti-Eviction Joint Action Committee and a few Naxalite outfits have called a 12-hour bandh here on Monday to protest against “administrative high-handedness”.

“We are not exactly ruling out chances of resistance in the course of the next few days. That the Chandmoni workers are backed by some political outfits only compounds the nature of the problem,” said Darjeeling superintendent of police Sanjay Chander.

Twenty-five demonstrators, mostly activists of the CPI-ML (Liberation) and the Chandmoni anti-eviction committee, were picked up from near Sevoke More and Housmi Chowk area when they tried to take out processions condemning the government’s decision to uproot the bushes to make way for a new township. Among those arrested is the committee’s convener and the CPI-ML (Liberation) state committee member, Abhijit Majumdar.

Monday’s bandh has been called jointly by the anti-eviction committee, the CPI-ML (New Democracy) and the CPI-ML (Liberation) and is supported by the Socialist Unity Centre of India.

Shyamal Bhoumik another party activist suffered injuries on his head and chest reportedly in a scuffle with policemen during a procession.

The uprooting process began amidst a morning drizzle under the watchful eyes of top district police officers. Chandmoni managers who came from Calcutta oversaw the daily labourers hired for the uprooting operation. To ensure a "hassle-free" day the police set up a picket by the side of National Highway 31 since last night.

“Foolproof measures were taken to snuff out even the slightest of resistance. There was no instance of anything untoward in and around the garden since today morning. However, we are leaving nothing to chance. And the same deployment would be maintained for the next few days outside the garden,” said Siliguri additional superintendent of police, Rajeev Mishra.

The anti-eviction joint action committee joint convenor, Abhiranjan Bhaduri claimed: “The uprooting of bushes at the tea garden does not signal an end to the Chandmoni movement. The government's parochial business interests with regard to the satellite township smacks of a huge scam.”

A stretch of the NH 31 was sealed off and traffic diverted through Fulbari bypass as a result of the uprooting drive. Army vehicels and other cars sporting requisite permits were only allowed to ply on that stretch.

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