Though the Centre had first agreed to send four paramilitary companies to Darjeeling, the delay was apparently issued after a meeting with their ally, the GJM.
Saturday saw fresh clashes in Darjeeling, with Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) protesters pelting stones and throwing bottles at security personnel, who retaliated by firing teargas shells.
The protests, which started last week, were triggered by the West Bengal state government’s decision to make Bengali compulsory in schools upto class ten. An indefinite bandh was called after the police on Thursday raided the premises of GJM chief Bimal Gurung and confiscated 300-400 weapons.
According to an NDTV report, last night the son of a lawmaker was arrested and a senior GJM leader’s house was allegedly vandalised. In addition, a public works department office in Bijonbari was set on fire, allegedly by GJM supporters, at 1 am.
The person arrested was Vikram Rai, son of GJM media cell head and MLA Amar Rai. Vikram is a journalist and according to Amar has no political ties, NDTV reported. “We are shocked that Vikram Rai, a local journalist, was arrested last night. Rai is associated with various media houses in Kolkata. If journalists are not safe in Darjeeling, who is,” NDTV quoted GJM’s assistant general secretary Binay Tamang, whose house was allegedly vandalised, as saying. “There is a virtual emergency imposed in Darjeeling region.”
Police sources said that prohibitory orders were in force in the entire area and no one was allowed to take out processions. However, GJM supporters took out a procession on Saturday; when police stopped them, they hurled stones and bottles. Police then fired teargas shells and used batons to disperse the crowd, they said.
Centre U-turns on sending paramilitary companies
The Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal had asked the Centre for four additional paramilitary companies to be sent to Darjeeling on Thursday afternoon. On Thursday evening the Centre agreed, saying the paramilitary companies were being “rushed” to the spot. However, according to a report in the Telegraph, the central government seems to have changed their mind somewhat – now saying that they will send the extra forces only after the West Bengal government submits a situation report.
According to the newspaper, home ministry officials said off the record that there were probably political reasons behind the Centre’s change of heart. The GJM is allied with the BJP. On Thursday evening, after the Centre agreed to send four paramilitary companies, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri and Darjeeling MP and BJP leader S.S. Ahluwalia met with Rajnath Singh.
“We have apprised the home minister of the prevailing situation in Darjeeling and the Mamata Banerjee government’s attempts to impose Bengali in the district-based schools. We have urged him for immediate central intervention to bring back peace there,” Giri told reporters after meeting Singh.
After this meeting, on Friday, the ministry said a situation report was required before the paramilitary forces could be deployed.
(With PTI inputs)