Darjeeling: Army has been withdrawn from restive Darjeeling hills of West Bengal even as the district is reeling under violent protests by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which is spearheading a movement for a separate Gorkhaland state.
The military was called in to assist the state administration on June 8 after morcha supporters clashed with security forces and set ablaze police vehicles, panchayat offices, block development offices, a station of the Darjeeling toy train, electricity supply office and a library.
Responding to the state government’s request army’s Kolkata-based Eastern Command dispatched six columns of Maratha Light Infantry. According to state government sources, the personnel have already left the hills. It is, however, not clear what prompted the state government to ask for the withdrawal of the army.
“The forces were withdrawn on June 24 after the state government told us there was no need for army deployment any longer,” Eastern Command spokesman wing commander S S Birdi said on Wednesday.
The GJM had been demanding withdrawal of the army and para military forces as one of the pre-conditions for it to withdraw its indefinite strike that entered 14th day on Wednesday. GJM supporters on Tuseday set ablaze offices of the engineering division of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and a gram panchayat.
This was the first instance when an office of the GTA — the semi-autonomous body to run the affairs of the hills — was set on fire. On Wednesday morning two GJM leaders R B Bhujel and Samuel Gurung were detained by the police when morcha supporters were trying to lay a siege to Darjeeling Sadar police station. The two were later released.
The GJM supporters also held rallies and staged demonstrations in various places in the hills. Cultural programmes were also organised in support of the separate state.
The GJM has, meanwhile, called an all party meeting at Kalimpong at 1pm on Thursday to chalk out the next course of cation. The earlier all- party meetings called by the GJM were held on June 13 and 20 at Darjeeling.