Sept. 15: Police cracked down on businessmen believed to be Gorkha Janmukti Morcha “financiers” so that the latter would be deterred from helping the hill party if it launches a prolonged agitation, sources in the force have said.
A senior minister today said “strong steps” would be taken against those “fuelling such (statehood) movements”.
This month, four businessmen — B.M. Garg, Himangshu Garg, Nand Kishore Agarwal and Ashoke Periwal — were arrested within a span of a few days during the Morcha’s indefinite strike.
While arresting B.M. Garg, the police had said nothing about his perceived closeness to the Morcha. However, when Agarwal was picked up, the police had said the ration dealer was allegedly “responsible for diverting PDS food grain from his godown to the Morcha”.
A police source said today that all four businessmen were “very close to the Morcha”.
“We believe they were helping the Morcha with funds to keep the movement alive. So by arresting them on various charges, we want to send the message that if they continue to do so, they will be dealt with even more firmly. This, we believe, will dry up the Morcha’s supply lines. If the hill party again decides to begin a strike, they will not be able to sustain it for long.”
B.M. Garg, Periwal and Agarwal are still in jail. Only Himanshu Garg has been granted bail.
Police officers did not rule out the possibility of arresting more hill businessmen in the coming weeks.
The move is “crucial” to “dry up” the funding sources of the Morcha, an officer said.
“We have to ensure that the businessmen stop helping the Morcha with money. A fund-starved Morcha will find it difficult to sustain the movement for long. At least, that is our understanding,” he added.
The officer said the police had been tracking the activities of the arrested businessmen for a long time and that they “firmly” believed the four had “substantially” contributed to the coffers of the Morcha during the indefinite strike that continued for 44 days with breaks in between.
“When the strike was on, the focus of the administration was on maintaining law and order in the hills,” another police officer said. “Now that the strike has been suspended, it is time to take steps against those who have in some way backed the Morcha in carrying on with its statehood movement.”
The senior minister The Telegraph spoke to said the administration would not tolerate any move to bifurcate the state.
“The government will strive to develop the hills but it will not tolerate any movement that aims to divide Bengal,” the minister said. “Strong steps will be taken against those fuelling such movements, whether in the hills or in the plains.”
North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb said: “The arrested persons are guilty of violating the law and due police action is being taken against them.”
CUFFS ON FOUR
The arrested Morcha businessmen and traders
Who: Sole distributor of PDS foodgrain in Darjeeling and Ghoom. Owns Rink mall, the only one in the hills. Has
several food grain godowns. Heads Darjeeling Chamber of Commerce
Arrested on: September 11. Has not been granted bail
Charged with: Involvement in the burning of Takdah Planter’s Club in
August. Booked for arson, trespassing and criminal conspiracy
Who: Publicity secretary of Darjeeling Chamber of Commerce and textile trader
Arrested on: September 11.
Has got bail
Charged with: Criminal intimidation. He allegedly organised a picketing at the district planning office on July 29. Also allegedly incited traders to close shops after BM Garg’s arrest
Nand Kishore Agarwal
Who: Ration dealer
in Sukhiapokhri in Darjeeling
Arrested on: September 12.
Is in jail
Charged with: Concealment
of stolen property
Who: Construction contractor and hardware store owner in Kalimpong
Arrested on: September 7.
Is in jail
Charged with: Vandalising