Darjeeling: GJM chief Bimal Gurung was raided by the police this morning after which protests started.
Darjeeling (West Bengal): Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh met Gorkha Janamukti Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri and BJP's Darjeeling lawmaker SS Ahluwalia this evening after a day of violence and arson in Darjeeling. The home minister stepped in after the popular hill resort of Bengal witnessed an upsurge of violence and the matter turned into a crisis for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Violence started in the morning as a huge police force descended at the home-cum-office of GJM chief Bimal Gurung and seized arms - including bows and arrows -- and cash. Morcha supporters clashed with the police, who responded with teargas and lathicharges. Trouble spread to neighbouring Kalimpong district, where a police post was set on fire and two other government properties attacked.
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"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," Mr Giri told reporters after meeting Mr Singh.
"The state is monitoring the hill situation. Weapons found show Bimal Gurung and his men planned violence. This condemnable, separatist agitation won't be tolerated," said Gautam Deb, Bengal tourism minister and a legislator from the area.
Trouble began around 9.30 am when a huge police force arrived at the home cum office of Bimal Gurung at Pathlevas and began a raid. Morcha supporters gathered nearby, started shouting slogans and pelted stones at the police. The police said the protesters also threw petrol bombs.
The police responded with teargas and lathicharge but for several tense moments, Morcha activists had the upper hand as they showered stones down from the hillsides. A media vehicle was torched.
"This is goondagardi (hooliganism). It will not be tolerated. Police will take strong legal and police action against Morcha. We will tackle this strongly": Additional Director General, West Bengal Police, Mr Anuj Sharma.
Additional police forces were rushed in to bring situation under control. The GJM has called an indefinite bandh across Darjeeling.
Trouble spread to neighbouring Kalimpong district. A police outpost at Pedong was set on fire. Arson was attempted at a sericulture office and the tourist lodge. A meeting will be held on June 19 between the representatives of the Centre, the state government and the Gorkha Territorial Administration.
On 8 June, Morcha clashed with police even as Ms Banerjee was holding a cabinet meet at the Raj Bhavan in Darjeeling. The Army was called in. Ms Banerjee said the government "had to take action". Petrol bombs were being hurled for two hours. "They had planned to attack the cabinet ministers. Women were chased. Women police had to run for their lives," she said.
The violence comes a day after GJM chief Bimal Gurung said the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland will go on and asked tourists to avoid visiting Darjeeling. It has ended the tourist season ahead of time. Most tourists have left the popular hill town two days ago as the indefinite strike called by the GJM started.
The protests had started last week after Ms Banerjee said Bengali language would be compulsory in all schools from class 1 to 10. Ms Banerjee later rolled back her stand and said Darjeeling would be exempt but Morcha wanted it in writing as a cabinet resolution that did not come.