Friday, August 07, 2009

Morcha displays ‘seized’ Sikkim liquor

Darjeeling, Aug. 6: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today put on display all the “illicit liquor” it had seized on Tuesday in an effort to build a positive public opinion on the work that the Gorkhaland Personnel has been doing “to bring about social reforms” in the hills.

Amar Lama, a central committee member of the Morcha, said the seized liquor would be handed over to the excise department.

The Morcha leadership dared K.L. Tamta, the north Bengal inspector-general of police, to arrest GLP members “who are working for the betterment of society”.

Reacting to Tamta’s announcement recently that police would act tough on GLP members stopping cars and conducting searches, Binay Tamang, the assistant secretary of the Morcha, said: “When we are doing something good for our society, Tamta is talking about action. Even if a single GLP member is arrested, there could be unrest in the hills and the state government along with Tamta will be responsible for it.”

The Morcha also said the GLP, its cell of uniformed volunteers who are paid Rs 1,500 a month, had every right to “assist the government” for the general good. “There is a clear provision in the CrPc which allows citizens to arrest people for the betterment of society. The fact that we could manage to seize so much illicit liquor on a single day suggests that the police and excise department are not doing their job. What are we to understand if Tamta is against us seizing such liquor. Does he want the trade to flourish?” asked Amar Lama.

The inspector-general admitted that the citizens had the right to put a stop to illegal activities. “But there should be a token police presence and the people have to requisition help from us. Nothing can be done unilaterally,” he said. Tamta had said GLP members found checking vehicles would be booked for wrongful confinement, obstruction of roads and even extortion. “Even the army and the paramilitary forces are not entitled to search randomly, then how can the GLP have the right,” he had said.

Deputy commissioner of excise (preventive) P.T. Bhutia said he did not know whether the law permitted citizens to seize liquor. “I will have to look up the rules, but carrying liquor for commercial purposes without proper papers and without paying the state concerned the revenue is illegal.”

Darjeeling district magistrate Surendra Gupta, however, said the GLP cannot seize liquor without authorisation. “And the excise department cannot accept the so-called seized liquor as doing that would mean that the government is putting an official stamp on the seizure,” Gupta said.

The Morcha maintained that it was “pained” at hearing adverse criticism from Sikkim on its activities. “The lobby of smugglers is strong everywhere. They are trying to start a misinformation campaign through the Sikkim media,” said Tamang.

Colonel (retired) Ramesh Allay, the chief of the GLP, said the display was the outcome of one day’s manning of the Sikkim border.