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Morcha holds back protest

Darjeeilng, June 30: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today did not start any agitation over the arrest of a GTA member as was expected while sources said the party was mulling approaching the high court over the Jamuni land case.

The Morcha had said after 61-year-old Kaziman Lohagun’s arrest on June 27 that it would start a “peaceful and democratic” protest if he was not released “unconditionally” by June 29.

But chances of Lohagun’s release sank when the chief judicial magistrate remanded him in police custody for five days.

Lohagun is accused of supplying weapons to six Morcha supporters who threatened a landowner, Manilal Tamang, who was reluctant to part with his 8-acre plot in Jamuni for a GTA tourism project that has Bimal Gurung’s blessings.

Lohagun, who holds the GTA seat of Bijanbari-Pulbazar, would be produced in court tomorrow.

The Morcha could be waiting to see what the court says tomorrow. Binay Tamang, the assistant general secretary of the party, today said: “The party has not yet decided on the agitation.”

A source in the party said the Morcha leadership was mulling the possibility of “getting relief on the entire Jamuni issue in the high court” instead of “talking only about the arrest of our elected GTA Sabha member”. But the source added that the matter was “still at the planning stage”.

Lohagun has been booked for criminal trespass, criminal intimidation, criminal conspiracy and common intent under the IPC. He has also been charged with sections under the Prevention of Atrocities on Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Act and the Arms Act.

Manilal had filed an FIR on June 17 alleging that six people had threatened him to vacate the land.

Police said that after the arrest of the six accused, they had found out that Lohagun had supplied them with weapons and had arrested him to recover more arms.

The police said they had recovered an improvised gun, a khukuri and a rod after the arrest of the six.

The six arrested will be produced in court on July 8.

The GTA claims it has not forcibly taken over the land and that the landowners had given a written consent to the hill body in 2012 to start the tourism project.

In April, nine landowners had complained to the Darjeeling district magistrate, saying the GTA had forcibly occupied 13 acres of their land in 2011 to develop a tourist spot but it had not paid them compensation.

The disputed land falls under the GTA constituency represented by Lohagun.