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Contractor stink in hill clash
- Morcha loyalists wanted to switch, says Trinamul

Kalimpong, Feb. 19: Nine Trinamul activists were today injured in a clash with alleged Gorkha Janmukti Morcha cadres near the army’s military engineering service compound in Kalimpong.

According to Trinamul sources, the clash had its roots in the party trying to woo some of the army-enlisted contractors who are loyal to the Morcha.

Police said two groups had clashed over “allotment of tenders” in an eatery outside the military engineering service (MES) office in Kalimpong’s Durpin, close to which the army’s cantonment is located. No party was named.

A Trinamul activist allegedly injured in the clash has filed an FIR naming local Morcha activists. The hill party has denied any hand in the assault. No one has been arrested yet. Trinamul activists said over 20 Morcha supporters with khukuris and rods attacked them in the eatery, which is frequented by MES officials because of its closeness to the army facility.

Chewang Bhutia, the Trinamul youth co-ordinator in Kalimpong, said some of the MES-enlisted contractors had shown an interest to switch from the Morcha to his party. “Our boys had gone to the MES office to meet some of the contractors who are interested in joining our party. While they were sipping tea in the canteen, Morcha youths from the neighbouring areas barged into the room armed with rods and khukuris and assaulted our boys,” he said.

When Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri’s reaction was sought on the clash, he said in Darjeeling: “They had a problem themselves (Trinamul) over enlisting at MES. The Morcha is not involved.”

The MES enlists contractors to carry out maintenance work in the army’s cantonment area. “Most of the work includes maintenance of barracks, roads and water pipelines. This involves a lot of money,” said a source.

“The local GNLF activists used to get the contracts during the party’s heyday. The Morcha leaders have been making hay in the past few years. It now appears that Trinamul, too, wants a slice of it,” said the source.

Bhutia said: “The assault was carried out by Morcha youths from the Chandraloke area (near Durpin). We have named Sunam Gurung, Kamal Rai and others in the FIR lodged by one of the victims, Yakin Lamichaney, the vice-president of Hill Trinamul’s Kalimpong youth wing.” Soon after the clash around 11am, shopkeepers downed shutters in Kalimpong. Bhutia denied that Trinamul activists had forced the shutdown. “People downed shutters on their own,” he said.

The injured Trinamul activists were admitted to Kalimpong subdivisional hospital first. Seven of the nine injured were later sent to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri. “Of the seven, two have suffered head injuries. All are in stable condition,” said Rajen Mukhia, a leader of hill Trinamul.

Minister Gautam Deb, asked about the clash, said: “Peace should be maintained in the hills and strong steps will be taken against those trying to create chaos and lawlessness.”