|Charred remains of the ancestral house of Trinamul leader K N Subba at Gorubathan after it was torched on Thursday night. Picture by Biplab Basak|
May 24: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today announced an indefinite strike in the hills from Sunday to protest the arrest of GTA Sabha member Chandra Yonzone, accused of burning down the house of Trinamul leader K.N. Subba last night.
Around 6.30pm today, members of the GTA Sabha, led by Roshan Giri, went to the Darjeeling Sadar police station and demanded that they too be arrested.
“Yonzone is innocent and was arrested by the police who came to his home late last night and aroused him from sleep,” Giri said at the police station. “We are calling an indefinite strike from Sunday and we will hold rallies all over the hills to protest the arrest. We demand that we too be arrested. We are not calling the bandh from tomorrow because of Buddha Purnima,” he said.
The summer tourism season has just begun in Darjeeling and many travellers from the plains and other parts of the country are in the hills now.
Till late in the evening, 14 GTA executive Sabha members and 17 municipality councillors had been put in preventive arrest, among them Asha Gurung, wife of Morcha chief Bimal Gurung. Police officers said the Morcha leaders were booked under Section 151 of the CrPc, a provision for preventive arrest.
In Kalimpong’s Gorubathan late last night, Trinamul leader Subba’s ancestral house, where his sister stayed, was set ablaze.
Subba and his party alleged the Morcha’s hand in it.
|Chandra Yonzone after his arrest in Kalimpong on Friday. (Chinlop Fudong Lepcha)|
On Wednesday, when Subba was on his way to Gorubathan, Morcha supporters blocked his way. Subba is the vice-president of the hill committee of the Trinamul Congress.
Yonzone was today produced in the court of the Kalimpong additional chief judicial magistrate Rana Dam, who remanded him in 14 days’ judicial custody.
A police source said Yonzone was charged under Section 436 of the IPC, a non-bailable section. “It concerns causing mischief by use of fire or explosive substance with the intention of causing destruction of human dwelling. If convicted, a person may be handed life imprisonment or imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine, depending on the nature of the offence,” said the source.
Today, as soon as it became known that Yonzone had been denied bail, shops in the town downed shutters.
Stakeholders in the tourism industry have termed the strike announcement “disastrous.” “The timing is disastrous. Tourists had started coming from May 20 and the town is virtually packed till June 10…. With this announcement the tourist season for this period will go for a toss,” said a tour operator on condition of anonymity.
Darjeeling gets about 3.5 lakh domestic tourists annually in addition to around 40,000 foreign travellers in summer.
Subba said this morning: “This (the house burning) is the handiwork of Morcha supporters. They had also ransacked my house in Sombarey Bazar in Gorubathan on Wednesday night…. Are the hills the personal fiefdom of Bimal Gurung?”
At Malbazar, Jalpaiguri, later in the day, he said: “Morcha leaders are apprehensive of losing support in case I enter Gorubathan and stay in my home. That is why they have been trying to stop us and burnt my ancestral house yesterday night. I have filed a complaint with police and have also faxed a letter to our party supremo and chief minister, narrating the entire incident.
On Thursday, 11 people suspected to be from the Morcha were arrested for allegedly preventing Subba from entering his home in Gorubathan.