Jan. 30: Another attempt by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters to move from Kumani to Sibchu in Jalpaiguri was thwarted today by police with the agitators claiming that they were baton-charged, a contention that was denied by the administration.
The Morcha supporters led by party president Bimal Gurung, who has been camping in Kumani in Kalimpong subdivision since January 19, have so far made two unsuccessful attempts to breach the police barricade on the Dooars border.
The first attempt was made on January 25, on the day the Morcha leadership met Union home minister, P. Chidambaram in Delhi.
Matters were peaceful at Kumani today where around 10.30am Morcha supporters led by Gurung observed the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Then around 300 Morcha supporters, including those from the Nari Morcha, suddenly headed towards the police barricade at Sibchu, 5km from Kumani.
A number of Nari Morcha supporters also sat on a relay hunger strike at a community hall in Sibchu, protesting the administration’s refusal to allow their party president to lead a padayatra through the Dooars to Jaigaon for Gorkhaland.
At 2pm, police officers, in the presence of divisional commissioner A.K. Singh, requested the Morcha supporters to disperse from the spot as just beyond the barricade Section 144 was in place.
“The demonstrators refused to budge. As they still continued to demonstrate, we ordered the policemen to chase and disperse them from the area. It was done to maintain law and order and there was no lathi-charge,” said Sukhen Baraik, a deputy magistrate posted at Sibchu.
The Morcha leadership has condemned the lathi-charge on their supporters. “Five of our supporters have been injured in the lathi-charge. One of them, Prakash Rai, has fractured his ankle and has been admitted to the subdivisional hospital in Kalimpong. Among the others who have suffered injuries is 67-year-old Kaila Rai,” said Binay Tamang, Morcha assistant secretary, over the phone from Kumani.
Tamang said the administration has “detained” them at Kumani for nearly 13 days. “The administration is treating us like terrorists and have been citing the imposition of prohibitory orders but Asok Bhattacharya held meetings in Malbazar a couple of days back,” he said.
From 4.30pm, the Morcha set up road blockades across the hills for two hours and demonstrated in front of police stations to protest the alleged lathicharge.
Jalpaiguri police chief Anand Kumar denied that the Morcha supporters were lathi-charged. “Our men just chased them away from Sibchu as they were repeatedly trying to violate the prohibitory orders. There was no lathi-charge,” Kumar said.
Inspector general of police (north Bengal) Ranvir Kumar said cases have been started against Morcha activists who blocked NH31A today.
“Subsequently, a case could be framed against Bimal Gurung if investigations reveal that he had called for the blockade,” Kumar said. The national highway is Sikkim’s only road link with the rest of the country.