Darjeeling Protests: PWD Office Torched; 3 Arrested, 10 Detained
Police said three people have been arrested and 10 detained so far. Section 144 has been imposed at most places. (Photo: News18.com)
Kolkata: The indefinite strike called by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) turned violent on Monday after an angry mob set a PWD office on fire in Singamari area of Darjeeling.
The crowd also tried to burn down the Block Development Office (BDO) in Bijanbari and another government office is Sukna but alert policemen chased the men away.
Police said three people have been arrested and 10 detained so far. Section 144 has been imposed in most places.
The GJM protest has its roots in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee making Bangla compulsory in all schools across the state. The Morcha is demanding an immediate formation of a separate Gorkhaland.
To counter paramilitary forces, GJM strategically put women activists in the forefront to take on the administration. Most places, including the district magistrate and municipality offices, witnessed arguments between women activists and the police.
Attendance was low at government offices and the hill station of Darjeeling wore a deserted look. The West Bengal government said that no salary will be given to absentee employees unless it was an emergency.
Sensing trouble, most of the hotels were closed and few vehicles were seen on the road. Tourists were an unhappy lot as the toy train service was also cancelled due to the strike.
Though schools and colleges were exempted from the agitation, most students and teachers preferred to stay at home.
Locals complained of non-availability of essential goods. In some places, medicine shops were open and policemen were seen guarding the establishments.
Earlier in the day, GJM president Bimal Gurung asked tourists to leave the hills for their safety but the government told them not to panic and promised necessary assistance.
Speaking to News18, senior IPS officer, Siddhi Nath Gupta, said, “Except for few minor incidents, the situation is peaceful so far.”
On June 10, Gurung had called for an indefinite strike. “We are not going to bow down before the state government and this agitation will continue till death,” GJM General Secretary Roshan Giri had said.
Meanwhile, the joint forum of trade unions of the tea industry in north Bengal began a 48-hour strike on Monday for immediate implementation of minimum wages for workers. Twenty-four trade unions in Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Alipurduar, Islampur and Mekhliganj are part of the stir.
State general secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Anandi Sahu said around 90% of tea workers joined the protest.
“We are extending our support to the strike called by the joint tea forum and we are with them in this crisis,” said GJM general secretary Roshan Giri.
The All India Trinamool Trade Union Congress opposed the agitation and clashed with the joint tea forum members. The situation is tense in some parts and additional policemen have been deployed.
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