Six members of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), spearheading the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state, were arrested on Sunday for allegedly stopping the vehicle of Superintendent of Police Kunal Agarwal during the ongoing bandh in the Darjeeling hills.
According to police sources, the GJM activists were arrested early Sunday - the second day of the indefinite shutdown - from their houses and taken to Darjeeling Sadar police station for interrogation.
A large number of GJM supporters and local leaders staged a sit-in in front of the police station demanding the release of the arrested members.
Law and order: CRPF personnel patrol a deserted road in Darjeeling during an indefinite strike by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha
Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh has declared his support for a separate state of Gorkhaland, adding that it is the oldest claim for state separation
In a separate incident, angry supporters set ablaze a passenger vehicle on NH-31A near Kalijhora in Kalimpong sub-division.
All markets were closed and the traffic movement remained suspended on Sunday even as the police, central forces and Special Striking Force personnel carried out intensive patrols across the hill sub-divisions.
GJM workers were on the roads in the hills and were seen checking vehicles.
Life continued to be paralysed with sloganeering GJM supporters taking out rallies at various places in the districts demanding a separate Gorkhaland state.
BlockadesThe protesters also put up road blockades at various important points on NH-55 (popularly known as Hillcart Road) to stop vehicles coming into Darjeeling.
Meanwhile, the body of GJM activist Mongal Singh Rajput, who had set himself afire and died at a Siliguri hospital, was taken to Kalimpong on Sunday as supporters queued up on both sides of the road.
A resident of Dr Graham Home at Kalimpong, Rajput poured petrol on himself and rushed to the crowded Dambarchawk area to set himself on fire on July 30.
He suffered serious burn injuries and was taken to a hospital in Siliguri where he succumbed to his burn injuries.
Meanwhile, GJM chief Bimal Gurung also said he would pay respect to Rajput at his funeral procession that will take place at Kalimpong on Monday.
"I will be there at the funeral procession. With the death of Rajput, our Gorkhaland movement will grow stronger.
"There will be demonstrations in front of all government offices in the hills Monday onwards," Gurung said.
The indefinite strike called by Gurung-led GJM brought an end to a peaceful period in the hills of Darjeeling since the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) pact was signed in July 18, 2011, between the GJM, the state and the central governments to set up an autonomous council in the region.
Supporting the statehood call, Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh said on Sunday: "Darjeeling is the only district in the country that adjoins four nations - Nepal, China, Bhutan and Bangladesh. It's a highly sensitive and important area for India and it must not be treated casually."
British-era bungalow set on fire
What earlier stood as a beautiful British-era bungalow in a picturesque setting has now turned into a forlorn structure symbolic of the unrest in Darjeeling hills.
Located about 40 km from Kalimpong in a small village, the Takdah forest bungalow was set on fire by unidentified people late in the night on Thursday.
Offering mostly home-stays, the club-come-forest bungalow was inaugurated barely a year ago (August 5, 2012) by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Locals remain tight-lipped about the incident. Those approached over the issue refused to comment or tactfully bypassed the pointed question - 'Who were behind the violence?'
No arrest has been made so far.
"We can't say anything. We are helpless. The bungalow is gutted now. We were supposed to start our maintenance work before the Durga Puja season.
"But this has happened. I don't know whether everything will be fine by then or not. If this continues, no one will come here this season," Pratima Rai, a caretaker of the bungalow whose family has been looking after the century-old heritage property for three generations, said.
Destroyed: A beautiful British era Takdah forest bungalow in the Darjeeling hills was set on fire. Those responsible have yet to be identified
Though the Shebbire suite in which the chief minister had stayed in was completely gutted, locals and bungalow officials had managed to douse the flames that had partially damaged the remaining four suites.
Sources in the forest department on Sunday, meanwhile, confirmed to Mail Today that the bungalow was set on fire by a group of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activists who came late in the night.
A forest official said the police have started an investigation. Officers of local Rungli police station along with senior district police personnel have visited the spot. They are conducting an enquiry into the matter.
"These kind of violent acts are affecting the livelihood of our own people. There are few local families who survive on this bungalow. They work as caretakers, cook food for the tourists in season and they are in-charge of the maintenance of it," another forest official said.
The GJM led by its supremo Bimal Gurung is spearheading the Gorkhaland agitation in West Bengal's Darjeeling district.
Life has come to a standstill in the hills which is popular among tourists as a getaway from the summer heat in the plains.
Curfew imposed in Karbi Anglong
Violence continued in Assam's Karbi Anglong district for the fifth day on Sunday over the demand for a separate state.
A curfew was imposed in the district on Sunday after some government offices and property of political leaders were torched by the angry protesters.
Anger: A forest beat office was destroyed by protesters demanding a separate state in Karbi Anglong
Police said the office of the additional chief engineer of irrigation department and the Khadi Board office, equipment and machineries of public works department, besides a forest beat office at Amri and a land records office at Long-e-Kur were among the property set ablaze by agitators.
Telangana Rashtra Samitha drives a hard bargainBy Mail Today Bureau
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) on Sunday threw a spanner in the works of the Centre, saying it will not accept Hyderabad as a Union Territory or the joint capital of Telangana and the Andhra region, even as supporters of united Andhra Pradesh held demonstrations in many parts of the state.
TRS chief K Chandrasekhara Rao said the administration of Hyderabad should be run by the Telangana government.
"TRS would have no objection if the new Andhra Pradesh government runs its administration from Hyderabad till a capital with necessary infrastructure is built, but the administration of Hyderabad should be run by the Telangana government," he told reporters in Hyderabad.
Blaze: United Andhra Pradesh activists burn a portrait of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Ananthapur, some 400 kilometers from Hyderabad
"We are looking at provisions like we have in Delhi where law and order is being handled by the home ministry directly and the police commissioner is directly responsible to the lieutenant governor...," Digvijaya earlier told a TV channel on Sunday.
Congress sources, however, downplayed Rao's demand saying he was "posturing" and it was part of bargaining ahead of a proposal for merger of his party with the Congress.
TRS chief's caveat comes in the wake of protests in Seemandhra against bifurcation of the state and many leaders from the region demanding a UT status to Hyderabad.
The Congress leadership has been trying to buy peace with agitated leaders from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema with the UT proposal.
AICC general secretary in-charge of Andhra Pradesh Digvijaya Singh (left) said Hyderabad would be the joint capital of Telangana and the Andhra region for 10 years, but TRS President K Chandrasekhar Rao (right) insists that Hyderabad should not become a joint capital in the long term
Upping their ante, the agitators organised road and rail blockades, rallies with black flags, sitins and community kitchens in several towns.
Meanwhile, Rao sought to douse the controversy over his reported remarks that state government employees from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra working in Telangana should go back to their respective regions, saying no one need go anywhere.
He said the media had misrepresented his comment.
His reaction came after the East and West Godavari Bar Association Lawyers Joint Action Committee lodging a police complaint on Sunday against him for his remarks.