The jeep with the seized liquor bottles. (Suman Tamang)
Darjeeling, Dec. 2: Police today seized more than 400 bottles of liquor and a vehicle that was illegally transporting them at a time when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s Gorkhaland Personnel is engaged in curbing the inflow of alcohol to the hills.
The seizure is expected to send a message to the public that the police’s presence is intact even as the non-confrontation policy of the state government has virtually rendered the cops toothless in the hills. In the past, the GLP had displayed hundreds of bottles of seized illegal liquor much to the embarrassment of the state police. The government had at that time declared such seizures illegal as the GLP did not have the authority to conduct raids.
“I was conducting a naka check at Bokshi jhora (3km from town) around 1.15 this morning when we intercepted the jeep which was loaded with illegal liquor,” said I.J. Thapa, inspector in charge, Darjeeling Sadar police station.
The vehicle had a registration number, WB-76-2589. Roshan Gurung, the driver and a resident of Harijan Barrack at Dr Zakir Hussian Busty in Darjeeling, has been arrested and booked under Section 46 of the Bengal Excise Act. There was no other passenger in the jeep. “A total of 414 bottles of rum, brandy and gin have been confiscated,” said Thapa.
The seizure highlights the fact that despite the Morcha “ban” on the sale of liquor since November 7, bootlegging continues in the hills.
The police were trying to verify whether the liquor was spurious or not. “The label shows that the liquor was manufactured in Bhutan and Assam and were meant for defence cantonments (which is not correct),” said Thapa. Many of the seized bottles, which can hold up to 750ml, were shown as having only 150 ml of liquor.
Lt Col (retd) R. Allay, chief of the GLP, said: “It is really nice to hear that the police too have become active. It is after long that they have seized illegal liquor and we welcome it.”
Morcha president Bimal Gurung had “banned” sale of liquor in town from November 7 as part of a non-cooperation movement against the government. However, tourists are being allowed to carry bottles for their own consumption.
“We have also relaxed the ban to some extent. Bimal Gurung has directed us to allow people to bring liquor for weddings. Many also need it to conduct rituals. However, these are strictly monitored by the Morcha leaders who give permission after checking the wedding cards,” said Allay.
GNLF strike today
The GNLF will start an indefinite bandh in Panighata and its surrounding areas from tomorrow to protest the district administration’s refusal of permit one of its frontal organisations to hold a three-day event.
Since morning, GNLF supporters will be on roads in Panighata and its suburbs, blocking traffic and requesting people to shut down shops, offices, educational institutions and other establishments, said Rajen Mukhia, a party leader. He is also the president of the Gorkha Janjati Manyata Samaroh Samiti, the organiser of the event.
Yesterday, Mukhia said they would resort to the strike from December 4, but changed the decision today. “We had planned a cultural programme and some discussions. It is sheer undemocratic on the administration’s part to refuse us permission,” Mukhia said.