Panchayat office set ablaze, govt vehicle damaged in Darjeeling

15 Jul 2017

A panchayat office was set on fire and a government vehicle was damaged at Kurseong in Darjeeling as the GJM-led indefinite strike demanding a separate state entered its 31st day today.

Large-scale violence and arson took place in Kurseong town in the afternoon even as Army troops remained stationed in Darjeeling, Sonada and Kalimpong. An Army column of around 50 personnel was deployed in Kalimpong on Monday night, while two columns were sent to Darjeeling and Sonada on Saturday last week. Official sources said the district administration has extended the ban on Internet services till July 25. The ban was imposed on June 18. Meanwhile, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the spearhead of the statehood agitation, rubbished the West Bengal government's allegation that it "has a tacit understanding with Maoists and is getting tactical support from them".

"The allegation levelled against us that we are getting support from Maoists is completely false. We challenge the state government to prove the allegation," GJM youth wing chief Prakash Gurung told newspersons. He also accused the state government and police administration of violating human rights in the hills. Earlier in the day, GJM supporters took out a rally in the Chowkbazar area and shouted slogans in support of a separate Gorkhaland. Processions were also taken out by activists of several political parties dressed in traditional Nepali attire.

Police and security forces patrolled the streets of the hills and kept a tight vigil on every entry and exit routes. Except pharmacies, all the other shops, restaurants, hotels, schools and colleges remained closed. With food supply severely hit due to the shutdown, GJM activists and NGOs of the hills were seen distributing food items among the people. The ongoing unrest in neighbouring Darjeeling Hills has adversely affected transportation of essential commodities in the East district of Sikkim, official sources said today. Reports have been received from various parts of the district regarding the shortage of essential commodities in the markets and shops in the East district, they said.

A meeting was held under the chairmanship of the secretary, food, civil supplies & consumer affairs department with the district collector, East and officials of line departments. It was decided in the meeting that a Control Room be setup at MG Marg, opposite Tourist Information Centre to receive complaints and grievances from the public pertaining to the shortage of essential commodities being faced in the district due to the unrest in neighbouring Darjeeling district. "The public can lodge their grievances at the control room phone number 03592-204995 from 8am to 8pm," the district collector Prabhkar Rao said.