Second self-immolation bid in Darjeeling, govt warns protesters

Citing the High Court order, Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra told reporters in Kolkata that the government would take strong steps against arson, vandalism, violence.

Darjeeling: Reacting strong against the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters after another self-immolation attempt was made by its activist for a separate Gorkhaland, the West Bengal government on Thursday said it would follow court orders strictly to maintain normalcy.

Citing the High Court order, Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra told reporters in Kolkata that the government would take strong steps against arson, vandalism, violence, stopping willing government employees going to work, closure of schools and colleges and stalling of transport.

"Such disruptive activities should not be done by anybody or any group and the state government will see that none is inconvenienced in the Darjeeling hills," Mitra said.

The GJM supporter, Purba Sherpa, a 32-year-old physically challenged person, who was in a procession as the indefinite bandh by the GJM entered the sixth day today, set himself alight near the Chowk bazar, police sources said.

The other GJM supporters hastily put out the flames and rushed Sherpa to the Darjeeling Sadar Hospital. Sherpa sustained 55 per cent burns, the sources said.

Earlier, a 45-year-old GJM supporter, Mangal Kumar Rajput, had set himself a light at the Dambarchowk in Kalimpong town on July 30 and died of his burns at a hospital in Siliguri on August 3.

A group of children with their wrists and ankles chained and women members of the GJM with shaved heads took out a silent procession near the district magistrate`s office.

Slogan-shouting GJM supporters blocked roads in all the three hill subdivision of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.

Three student leaders Amrit Yanjan, Priyadarshan Rai, Anil Rai besides two others were detained last night, police sources said.

Amrit, Priyadarshan and Anil were later released, while the other two were arrested, they said.

The total number of arrests rose to 145 with the two arrests.

Admitting that GJM`s shut down had created problems, Mitra said that the public distribution system had collapsed in the hills with offices, schools and colleges closed, road transport and tourism hit and tea gardens near closure.

Stating that the government would give protection to willing government employees, Mitra said stern action would be taken against those staying away from work and that all government offices would remain open.

Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee who returned from Darjeeling after studying the situation there was asked if the government would ban the `Gorkhaland Personnel` (GLP), appointed by the GJM to police the hills as volunteers.

Banerjee replied, "The government is not sure about the existence of the GLP.

"They might be a group of young people backed by the GJM. But if they indulge in violence, we will take action," he said.

He said that steps were taken against those who were responsible for violence in the hills.

Asked how long the post of chief executive of the Gorkha Territorial Administration, the hill council, would remain vacant after resignation of its CEO Bimal Gurung, who is the GJM president, he said "We have asked the GTA principal secretary to inform us about their plan to announce a new chief executive."

PTI

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