The Telegraph
Friday , June 16 , 2017

More forces for hills

New Delhi, June 15: The Centre today sent four additional companies of forces to Darjeeling following a request from the Bengal government, on a day violence escalated in the hills and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha announced an indefinite general strike.

The Union home ministry had earlier sent 10 companies of forces to the hills. With today's move, 14 companies will be there in Darjeeling to tackle any possible law and order situation.

There are around 100 soldiers in each company.

The hills today were gripped by uncertainty after the Morcha announced the strike and suspected party supporters torched government property following a raid on Bimal Gurung's office. The violence spread far and fast to Kalimpong.

In Delhi, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri met Union home minister Rajnath Singh today and sought central intervention over the hill party's demand for Gorkhaland.

The BJP, an ally of the Morcha, is yet to make its stand clear on the statehood issue.

"I told him about the police atrocities in Darjeeling and urged him to look into our statehood demand. Statehood is about our identity and our right to self-determination. I requested him to expedite the process of forming a committee to look into the matter," Giri said.

According to sources, Singh had requested Giri to end the shutdown in the hills as soon as possible.

Home ministry officials in Delhi today said the Bengal government had asked the Centre to defer a tripartite meeting on June 19 over the Morcha-run Gorkhaland Territorial Administration because of the ongoing unrest in the hills.

"The Bengal government today requested us to defer the scheduled tripartite meeting on GTA. They said they wouldn't be able to participate because of the violence in Darjeeling," an official said.

Asked if the proposed meeting would be deferred, Giri said: "As far as I know, there is no confirmation of the June 19 tripartite meeting. Even if a meeting is to be held, it has to be on the current Darjeeling situation and not the GTA provisions."

Giri today denied that any explosives and weapons had been found during the police raid on Gurung's office in Patlabas, Darjeeling. "They were nothing but crackers that party workers had stored after our victory in the municipal polls."

Home ministry spokesperson Ashok Prasad today said the Centre was yet to get a report from the Bengal government on the current situation in Darjeeling.

He, however, clarified that seeking a report did not mean the state government was under any obligation to send its reply within a certain time.

Additional reporting by Vivek Chhetri

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