The car that was set afire on Lower Reshi Road near Kalimpong on Tuesday. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
Kalimpong, Aug. 27: A Siliguri-bound car which was going to bring back a patient was set on fire by a group of masked men, alleged to be Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters, on Lower Reshi Road near here this morning.
The occupants of the vehicle said they had told the attackers that written permission had been taken from the Morcha for the trip during the shutdown.
The Morcha has denied involvement in the incident and alleged that its members had been framed by the government to discredit the party.
An indefinite shutdown is being enforced in the Darjeeling hills by the Morcha and other outfits to press for the creation of Gorkhaland. Emergency services like hospitals were exempted from the ambit of the strike.
Darjeeling police superintendent Kunal Aggarwal said the incident had occurred 10km down from Kalimpong between 6.30am and 7am.
“The car belonged to Pema Lepcha, a Morcha leader from Pedong. He and two others were going to Siliguri in the car to bring back a recuperating patient. We have arrested four persons in connection with the incident and they are Morcha supporters,” he said.
The arrested persons are Albert Lepcha, Bhupal Chettri, Subash Rai and Pranay Chhetri. They are all from the 5th Mile area, which is close to the site of the incident. The four have been charged under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in common interest), 427 (mischief causing damage) and 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance) of the IPC. They were produced before the additional chief judicial magistrate, S. Gayan, in Kalimpong and have been remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.
Pema said they were on their way to Siliguri from Pedong to bring home a patient from their village. “When we reached the spot, all of a sudden, some five or six persons with their faces covered with cloth stopped our car. They started banging the car and dragged us out. I managed to take out my vehicle documents and the permission letter from the Morcha, but the attackers refused to look at the letter and set the car on fire.”
Pedong is 20km up from Kalimpong. The registration number of the Nano car is WB 74-W 6285.
Morcha president Bimal Gurung said in Darjeeling that the incident could be the handwork of the state government to discredit the movement.
Kumar Chamling, the press and publicity secretary of the Morcha’s Kalimpong unit, said: “We strongly condemn the incident. It is true that in cases of emergency, we give permission for people to travel. And once we grant the permission, we convey the message to our people. Now it can’t be that we first give the permission and then go ahead and do such things. The four arrested persons, we believe, are innocent,” he said.
The relatives of the arrested persons also said they were in no way involved in the incident. “The four had gone to a dairy at 5th Mile to collect milk. A team of CRPF personnel came and arrested them while they were standing on the road. They are all innocent,” said a relative of one of the arrested persons.