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Featured Image: Army carrying out a route march at Kalimpong on Friday noon. 

By A Newsman

Siliguri, 9 June: CHIEF Minister Mamata Banerjee has decided to go all out against the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) for indulging in massive violence, arson, and vandalism in Darjeeling town yesterday.

This is even as the 12-hour shutdown called by GJM from 5 am today has evoked a total response all over the Hills, with shops / markets being closed and private vehicles remaining off the roads. GJM cadres are picketing on the roads at isolated places at Kurseong, Mirik, and Kalimpong, but the streets in Darjeeling are free.

Thousands of stranded tourists are literally squatting by the streets in the Hills for vehicles to go to Siliguri. The administration is escorting them down to Siliguri in government buses.  At the Tenzing Norgey Bus Terminus in Siliguri, North Bengal State Transport Corporation buses are leaving for Kolkata every two hours carrying tourists.

The Chief Minister, who stayed back in Darjeeling yesterday night in view of the GJM violence, has been visiting different parts of the hill town since morning assuring both tourists and residents that the administration was there to ensure their safety and security.

She is accompanied by chief secretary Basudev Banerjee, home secretary Malay De, and director general of police Surajit Karpurkayastha. They are unlikely to leave the Hills today as well.

Talking to newsmen while making rounds of Darjeeling, the Chief Minister said that after what has happened yesterday, her government has decided not to tolerate anymore.

“State government gave all support to them (GJM) in the past, but now government is very tough. I have seen how they have burned government vehicles and destroyed properties. Government will not spare anyone responsible for the violence and arson. We will not tolerate all these things, law will take its own course,” she said.

Mamata maintained that “only 3-4 people” were responsible for instigating the violence yesterday. “They can’t fight us on developmental and hence, are trying to create unrest in the Hills. GTA’s term will end in July and they are now doing all this to gain political mileage. We appeal to the people not to support Bimal Gurung and his associates.”

Declaring today’s strike illegal, the Chief Minister said that action would be taken against those participating in the bandh. She said that attendance in government offices was between 90-100 per cent.

Mamata paid a visit to the injured police personnel at Darjeeling District Hospital and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 25,000 each to the injured as an immediate relief. She informed that a helicopter was being arranged to lift an injured cop to Kolkata who has suffered grievous injury in his eye in GJM stone pelting.

Police today morning have taken control of the Bhanu Bhavan in Darjeeling from where the GJM activists carried out the violence yesterday. Administration is also carrying out searches at possible places where GJM activists could be hiding in large numbers.

State government had yesterday requisitioned two columns of Army to contain the violence; the number of Army deployment in the Hills has now gone up to six columns with 43 personnel in each.

Three columns have been deployed in Darjeeling, two in Kalimpong, and one in Kurseong. Three companies of CRPF have also been deployed, besides a large posse of state police personnel.

They forces are conducting route marches on the main streets all over the Hills. Amidst this, GJM and Trinamool activists came face to face at Mirik but a clash was averted by timely intervention by the police.

At Kurseong, GJM supporters blocked NBSTC buses carrying tourists to Siliguri only to lift the blockade after about 15 minutes. At Kalimpong, GJM activists took out a protest rally and are also picketing on the streets.