HC orders steps against bandh supporters

The Telegraph

Gurung at Singamari on Wednesday. (Suman Tamang)

Aug. 7: Calcutta High Court today said the people of Darjeeling “should not be harassed and steps should be taken against bandh supporters”, while in the hills Bimal Gurung declared that the shutdown will continue because the “public mood is against lifting” the strike.

The court said 10 guidelines set earlier this year should be followed by the Darjeeling administration so that life in the hills is not affected. But in Darjeeling, the Yuva Morcha, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s youth wing, announced a series of protests, a clear indication that the hill party was in no mood to relent.

A little after noon, Calcutta High Court, while hearing a PIL seeking an order to declare the strike illegal, today said: “The state has failed to maintain normalcy in Darjeeling. It has also failed to provide emergency services to the general people. General people should not be harassed and steps should be taken against the bandh supporters.”

The division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi asked the state, particularly the Darjeeling administration, to follow 10 guidelines it had framed to maintain peace and normalcy on February 20 and 21 earlier this year when 11 trade unions had called a bandh to protest a fuel price hike and spiralling inflation.

“On February 14 this year, this bench had issued certain guidelines regarding a bandh. The Darjeeling administration would have to follow the guidelines,” the order said.

The bench directed the superintendent of police, Darjeeling, to file an action-taken report before August 14, when the matter would again come up for hearing. The 10 guidelines that the court had set on February 14 are:

nThe chief secretary, director-general of police and district collectors must ensure that bandh supporters do not use force or intimidation

nEnsure that public transport in the state can run without any obstruction

nTake appropriate action against the person(s) trying to obstruct rail and road traffic or free movement of common people

nEssential services like telephone and telecommunication, water supply, milk distribution, supply of power and distribution of newspapers should not be affected. The courts should function normally

Provide adequate protection to vital installations

Adequate protection for various institutions, including courts

Action to be taken against anti-socials and persons indulging in acts of violence and vandalism

Adequate police arrangement to be made outside railway stations, bus depots, main roads, main junctions, hospitals, courts, schools, colleges etc

All police control rooms to remain active for proper and timely action

Ensure that no unlawful activity takes place.

Around 12.30pm at Darjeeling’s Singamari, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Gurung said: “The strike will continue without relaxation as long as the people want it. The current public mood is against lifting the indefinite strike and hence the strike will continue. We might only relax the strike for Independence Day celebrations.” He added: “If anyone has problems with rations, they can come to me and I will provide rations to them.”

Asked if he would meet Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Delhi, Gurung said: “I was supposed to meet him tomorrow but he seems to have a busy schedule. Our team in Delhi is working on the appointment and it should come through within the next three or four days. I will leave for Delhi once the appointment is finalised.”

The six-member Morcha team that is in Delhi met BJP leader L.K. Advani. Roshan Giri, the Morcha general secretary, said over phone from Delhi: “We have talked to him about the need to form Gorkhaland and he assured (us) that the issue would be raised by them at an appropriate time.”

The strike will enter its sixth day tomorrow. When the case came up for hearing today, government pleader Ashok Banerjee supported the contention of the petitioner, Ramaprasad Sarkar. Banerjee also said: “The government will try to carry out the court order and restore normalcy in Darjeeling.”

After Gurung’s news conference in Darjeeling, the Yuva Morcha announced a series of protests, a further indication that the Morcha was in no mood to relent now. Police sources said 32 Morcha activists were arrested from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong last night. In Darjeeling court, 19 of the accused did not get bail. Three have been booked for arson, the rest charged with blocking highways.

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