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Rift scent in hill Trinamul

Darjeeling, May 21: A nominated GTA Sabha member of the Trinamul Congress today criticised the “style of functioning” of two leaders of his party based in the plains, raising doubts of a rift in the hill unit’s leadership.

This is the first time that a Trinamul leader has been vocal in criticising others in the party in the hills.

Milan Dukpa, the GTA Sabha member, today said: “Our supporters are being threatened and attacked. One of our sympathisers’ house was burnt down in Badamtam last night but Rajen Mukhia (convenor of Trinamul, hills) and Binny Sharma (spokesman for the party’s hill unit) are in Siliguri issuing press statements. I strongly protest their style of functioning. Instead of issuing statements from Siliguri, they should have had the courage to come up to the hills to meet our supporters.”

Mukhia stays at Panighata, near Siliguri, and Sharma is based in Siliguri town.

Dukpa’s statement comes after alleged Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters torched a vehicle and a two-storey wooden house of Dhanbahadur Tamang in Badamtam, 16km from here, last night.

“I was in the house with my wife. Around 9.45pm, I heard some noise outside. When I came out, I found my vehicle was on fire. I recognised two persons, Manoj Subba and Sanjay Pradhan, who were fleeing the spot. They are Morcha supporters,” said Tamang, who makes a living by renting out his jeep, which he drives himself. “I was being considered a Trinamul sympathiser as the party used to hire my jeep. I used to rent out my vehicle to the party as this is my business. Now, I have become a Trinamul supporter. I have lost property worth Rs 35 lakh in the fire.” Tamang has filed an FIR against the two Morcha supporters with Darjeeling Sadar police station.

D.P. Pradhan, a Morcha leader and an elected GTA Sabha member from Lebong Badamtam, said: “The Morcha is not involved. We always considered Tamang our sympathiser. There could be personal grudges. Some people might be trying to defame our party.”

Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, who is in Delhi along with other party leaders, said: “I am saddened to hear about the political unrest in the hills. No matter which party one belongs to, all must work towards maintaining peace. One of the major reasons why we are stressing on a Delhi-centric movement for Gorkhaland is to ensure peace in the hills.”

When asked about Dukpa’s comments, Binny Sharma said: “I do not want to comment on what Milan Dukpa has said. It is for the party to evaluate our work and we are not answerable to Milan Dukpa.”

Rajen Mukhia could not be contacted.

Today, in Mungpoo, 35km from here, shops and schools reopened after two days of shutdown following a Trinamul-Morcha clash on Monday. Morcha activists had alleged Trinamul supporters had attacked them and Trinamul supporters had said they reacted for self-defence. Trinamul had alleged that Morcha supporters had burnt their party flags on Sunday triggering the clash.