A file picture of the DGHC rest house in Rohini before it was burnt and (below) after the ransack. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Rohini, Jan. 1: A Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader was beaten to death by a mob almost an hour after midnight when seven members of the party spearheading the Gorkhaland movement in the hills broke into a DGHC rest house.
In retaliation, Morcha supporters swooped down on Rohini from Kurseong, 45km from the hill town, this afternoon and set fire to 20 houses. A truck was also torched and even the rest house was not spared. It was set on fire around 12.30pm.
The Morcha has blamed former GNLF supporters for the attack. In their heart they were still with the GNLF and bore a grudge against our leaders, said Binay Tamang, the media and publicity secretary of the party said in Darjeeling today.
The body of Subodh Pradhan, the convener of the Giddapahar unit of the Morcha, was found in the bungalow by police early this morning. He had died on the spot. Of the six, while Ramesh Gurung and Shyam Rai had escaped with bruises, four others — Azam Pradhan, Kalyan Subba, Anup Chhetri, Suraj Subba — were taken to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri by the police. Ramesh and Shyam who were initially admitted to the Sukna health centre were later shifted to NBMCH.
From his hospital bed, Azam said: We had been to Simulbari and had decided to stay back at Rohini for the night. Since we could not find the guards, we broke the locks and entered the bungalow. We decided to buy a new lock in the morning and hand it over to the guards.
After about an hour, some people, including the guards, reached the bungalow. They went on abusing us without any provocation. When we protested, around 100-150 people entered the campus and pounced on us. We were helpless and had to bear the beating, said Suraj Subba, the general secretary of the tea workers union of the Morcha. Subodh, who tried to resist, was attacked with the wooden rods fixed to the beds. They hurled stones and bricks at us, dragged us out and kicked us around. Some others stood guard with khukuris, he said.
The people of Rohini, however, had a different version. They alleged that Subodh and his companions were intoxicated. They wanted to enter the bungalow forcibly, but were stopped by the guards, Bimal Diyali and Rajen Senchuri.
But the guards were bashed up and they cried out for help. When some local people tried to intervene, the Morcha leaders assaulted them too, a resident said. By then more than a 100 people had gathered. They stormed into the bungalow and beat up the seven. Around 4am, a force from Garidhura outpost under the Kurseong police station reached the spot.
Bimal and Rajen, along with three others — Krishnabahadur Diyali, Bikash Diyali and Nirmal Diyali — were arrested on murder charges.
This morning, after a postmortem was conducted and Subodhs body discharged from NBMCH, Pradip Pradhan, the vice-president of the Morcha, and 50 supporters started for Pankhabari in 20 cars. The four injured — Azam, Suraj, Kalyan and Anup — accompanied them in two ambulances. Pradhan said they would be treated in Kurseong.
The police said the situation turned tense when the motorcade reached Rohini around 12 noon. No policemen had posted there at that time. By then some Morcha supporters had started assembling near the rest house. It is not clear whether a group had broken away from those accompanying the body. But some supporters had come down from Kurseong.
The police had no inkling of the retaliation till the rest house was set on fire. Most of the local people had fled by then. Around 20 houses located opposite the rest house were torched. A truck and a shop, owned by the guard Bimal, were set afire.
Senior officers like additional superintendent of police (Darjeeling) Akhilesh Chaturvedi and subdivisional police officer of Kurseong Rakesh Singh reached the spot around 1pm.
In another half-an-hour, 70-80 personnel from the police and the district armed forces had arrived.
Rahul Srivastava, the superintendent of police of Darjeeling, said: We came to know that Subodh and his companions had forcibly entered the DGHC rest house and assaulted the guards. Hearing them shouting for help, the local people came and beat up Pradhan and his men. A case has been filed and all the five named in the complaint arrested. The guards, too, have filed a complaint. This morning some Morcha supporters ransacked the rest house and set it on fire. The situation is under control.