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Fresh case on Morcha 7, Gurung fumes

- Harka says MLAs should withdraw from Assembly & not go to state ‘begging’

Darjeeling, Nov. 28: A fresh case of arson has been slapped on seven jailed Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders, upsetting the hill party at a time it has started mending fences with the state government.

Morcha sources said an angry Bimal Gurung, the hill party chief, called senior leader Roshan Giri and asked why they had been calling the recent talks with the state government “encouraging”.

Morcha Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri, speaking over phone, said: “I was in Calcutta yesterday and Roshan called me up to pass on the party president’s query. The party president is justified in asking us such questions as the state government talks about one thing and does just the opposite.”

Chhetri said what the state administration was doing was political vendetta. “Even an illiterate person would know that false cases are being brought against the leaders…. In the entire process, we leaders (who are talking with the state government) are getting discredited before the public and before the family members of the arrested leaders,” he said.

“It is nothing but humiliation by the state government as they are forcing us to act like beggars. How long are we to go to them with the same issue just to hear their same false assurances?” he asked.

Both Chhetri and Giri had come as part of the Morcha team for the bipartite and tripartite talks with the state and the Centre in Calcutta on November 20-21. The Morcha team had requested the withdrawal of cases against party leaders.

Earlier this month, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said the cases against the jailed Morcha leaders and supporters would be viewed individually before decisions were taken.

Chhetri said: “I spoke to our party president last evening and told him that there is no reason for us (the MLAs) to sit in the Assembly. I have asked him that he must withdraw us from the Assembly immediately.”

Gurung has reportedly told Chhetri that they should discuss the issue when he returns from Calcutta.

This morning, Pankaj Prasad, the assistant public prosecutor, confirmed that the seven Morcha leaders were “shown arrest” for their alleged involvement in an arson case.

“Shown arrest” is a legal term to denote that the accused have been arrested in a particular case — in this instance the Rimbick forest building burning of August 2, 2013.

“Pasang Tamang (youth leader of the Morcha from Kalimpong), Mahendra Pradhan, Arun Sinji, Anit Thapa, Anush Thapa, Pranay Thapa and Yogendra Rai were yesterday tagged for their involvement in burning down a forest office at Rimbick on August 2, 2013,” Prasad said.

Apart from Pasang, the other six are elected GTA Sabha members.

The case will be heard in the court of the chief judicial magistrate of Darjeeling on December 4.

After the Morcha revived its statehood movement on July 29 this year, alleged supporters of the party led arson attacks on several government properties. On August 2, alleged Morcha activists set fire to the forest office in Rimbick, 90km from Darjeeling.

The forest staff doused the fire quickly. No one was injured.

On the same night of the Rimbick arson, alleged Morcha supporters also set fire to a forest bungalow in Takdah where chief minister Mamata Banerjee had stayed during one of her many earlier trips to the hills.

In the arrests that followed, several Morcha supporters and leaders, including Binay Tamang, were charged in the Takdah arson attack case.

The seven who have been accused in the Rimbick case have been charged under the IPC sections 436 (mischief with fire or explosives with intent to destroy house), 447 (criminal trespass), 120B (criminal conspiracy), and Section 3 of the Prevention of Destruction of Public Property Act. All the sections are non-bailable, which makes the prospect of early release of the seven remote.

A senior home department official said in Calcutta: “There is no agenda behind the fresh cases being filed…. All the cases being filed relate to the period of the agitation and not now.”