GTA Sabha member Kaziman Lohagun being taken to court after his arrest in Darjeeling on Friday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, June 27: The GTA Sabha member of Pulbazar-Bijanbari, Kaziman Lohagun, was arrested today on charges of supplying weapons to six persons who had allegedly threatened a farmer who refused to part with his land for a tourism project at Jamuni.
The early morning arrest of the 61-year-old GTA member has prompted the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to serve an ultimatum on the administration for Lohagun’s “unconditional” release by Sunday evening.
The party said the arrest was politically motivated and if the GTA member was not released by Sunday evening, there would be a “democratic and peaceful agitation”.
The acting chief judicial magistrate of Darjeeling, Rafique Alam, remanded Lohagun in police custody for five days, which essentially means that Lohagun cannot be released by Sunday evening. Lohagun will be produced in court again on Tuesday.
Akhilesh Kumar Chaturvedi, the superintendent of police, Darjeeling, said: “He (Lohagun) was arrested as his name cropped up during our investigation.”
The GTA chief executive, Bimal Gurung, is also an accused in the case. Manilal Tamang, whose family members own land at Jamuni, complained to the police on June 17 that six men armed with rods and sharp weapons had threatened him. Manilal also alleged that the six had threatened him under Gurung’s instructions.
Asked if Lohagun’s name figured in the complaint, Chaturvedi replied in the negative.
The six are currently under judicial custody and will be produced in court in July.
In April, nine landowners had complained to the Darjeeling district magistrate, saying the GTA had forcibly occupied their 13 acres in 2011 to develop a tourist spot but it had not paid them compensation. Jamuni, about 20km from here, is a favourite haunt of Gurung. Of the 13 acres, Manilal’s family has eight acres. The disputed land falls under the GTA constituency represented by Lohagun.
Pankaj Prasad, assistant public prosecutor, said: “After the arrest of the six persons, an improvised gun, a khukuri and a rod had been recovered by police. During interrogation, the six said Lohagun had delivered the weapons to them. The six accused have said there are more weapons and the police have taken Lohagun on remand to recover them.”
Lohagun has been booked under Sections 447 (criminal trespass), 506 (criminal intimidation) 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intent) of the IPC, along with Section 3 (IV, V, X and XV) of the Prevention of Atrocities on Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes Act. Lohagun has also been booked under Section 25 (i) and Section 27 of the Arms Act.
Soon after word of Lohagun’s arrest spread, most of the shops in Bijanbari-Pulbazar downed shutters throughout today. Binay Tamang, assistant secretary of the Morcha, however, said the party had not called a strike in the area.
The Morcha today held an emergency meeting of the office-bearers in Darjeeling.
“Fake cases, which are politically motivated, have been lodged against Lohagun. Apart from being a senior citizen, he is also a diabetic. We condemn the arrest and demand his unconditional release by Sunday evening, failing which the party will be forced to start a democratic and peaceful agitation,” said Tamang.
The arrest threatens to vitiate the relatively peaceful atmosphere in the Darjeeling hills at present.
Tamang said the GTA Sabha would hold an emergency meeting at 2pm tomorrow to discuss the issue.
“Lohagun is not a land mafioso. Manilal Tamang, who filed a police complaint, does not even own land at Jamuni,” said Tamang.