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Guv in Darj; censures ‘police state’

Dhankhar comes down heavily on Darjeeling DM and SP for not following protocols during his visits

Statesman News Service | Siliguri/ Darjeeling |

At a time when people of Darjeeling Hills are witnessing a different political equation, following Gorkha leader Bimal Gurung’s possible return to his hometown after three years, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar today said Bengal was a “police state” and came down heavily on the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police of Darjeeling for allegedly working as political activists of the ruling Trinamul Congress. Mr Dhankhar interacted with reporters in Siliguri just before he left for his office in Darjeeling, where he will stay for a month.

It may be mentioned here that though protocol has it that the DM and the SP receive the Governor at his place of arrival and departure, that has not happened in Mr Dhankar’s case so far. Stating that no one was above the law, Mr Dhankhar said: “The DM and the SP are public servants, but they are working like political activists of the ruling party. Police should do their duty.”

Mr Dhankhar, however, avoided reacting on the present political developments in Darjeeling, where Mr Gurung has announced his departure from the NDA and joining of hands with the Trinamul Congress led by Mamata Banerjee.

He also avoided questions from reporters on why both the Centre and the state governments provided shelter to Mr Gurung, one of the “most wanted men.” He did not touch upon Mr Gurung and his associates, who were in Delhi allegedly under the shelter of the BJP leadership in the past three years, even as the state police issued lookout notices for them.

The Governor also highlighted central Government schemes like Ayushman Bharat and the Prime Minister Kisan Sanman Nidhi and claimed how the people of West Bengal were deprived of those benefits due to the “confrontation” between the Centre and the state, and talked about how development had stalled because of it.

He termed Bengal as a ‘police state’ and said it worked against the rule of law and the Constitution, while also claiming that health services had collapsed in Bengal.

As the Governor addressed the Press for more than an hour, common people and political leaders watched him live on social media, where they also left their comments, while some also branded him a spokesperson of the BJP. People in the Hills also sought a clear stand on the ‘Permanent Political Solution’ (PPS) and statehood demand. The Governor claimed that long-pending issues can be settled through a ‘pragmatic approach.’

On the other hand, Trinamul Congress leaders like Gautam Deb and Rajya Sabha MP Shanta Chhetri hit back at Mr Dhankhar’s statements.

Mr Dhankhar also disclosed how he had received representations from different sectors, including tea plantations, related to labour laws, the Sevoke-Rango railway link and forest villagers’ issue, from this region.

During his stay in Darjeeling, the Governor would monitor the entire eight districts of north Bengal and interact with groups of people belonging to different organisations, sources said.

On the other hand, Darjeeling MP Raju Bista said: “In these difficult times, when the state government has gone rogue and administrative machinery is working overtime to subvert people’s democratic and constitutional rights, the arrival of Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar brings much hope and solace to the people from North Bengal.”

“As he has stated, all issues concerning our region can be resolved through farsightedness, and I look forward to discussing the same with him in the next few days,” Mr Bista added.

Mr Dhankhar later arrived in Darjeeling, where he said he would interact heart-to-heart with all stakeholders.

“Darjeeling is another office of the Governor. Even Kolkata’s Raj Bhawan is a camp office, so the first servant has come from one work place to another. I wanted to come here on the last occasion, but due to the agitation in the state, the programme had to be cancelled. I will be spending a proportionate time in a year at Raj Bhawan in Darjeeling,” he said.

“I take my visit with great focus, direction and is like a pilgrimage to me. I will try to connect with all sets of people, opinions and interact heart to heart with all stakeholders. This area has enormous relevance in relation to tourism, economy, industry, and strategic point of view. I am sure it will see the best period of its development,” he said.

According to him, Darjeeling has been glorified nationally and globally and the “qualities of culture, ethics, courage are envied by all and evoke instant respect.”