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Army, Painakumari residents at loggerheads over land ownership

Kurseong : The district administration imposed Section 144 at Painakumari Busty, an area under the Kurseong sub-division, following a dispute over land between the Army and residents. Sources have said Painakumari Busty residents have been agitated ever since they came to know they would be soon evacuated by the army from the land they have living in since ages. Darjeeling superintendent of police AK Chaturvedi, Kurseong MLA Rohit Sharma, GTA area sabhasad Champa Vibar and other GJM leaders today visited Painakumari and took stock of the situation. A large number of para-military forces and police personnel have been deployed in the area to thwart any untoward incident. Kurseong SDPO CB Subba said Brigadier RS Rawat, station commander of the 33 Corps, Sukna filed a complaint Friday night with the Garidhura police outpost claiming army-owned land at Painakumari area has been encroached upon and made a formal request for immediate action. 

When the area residents came to know about this, they too filed a complaint with the police stating despite living in the area since decades, army officers regularly harangue them on various pretexts. A resident wishing not to be named said, “We have been paying ‘dhuri tax’ and at the same time, various government schemes have been implemented in Painakumari. In spite of this, we are being mentally harassed by the army. Meanwhile, Subba said police patrolling will continue and Section 144 will remain in force for the next 60 days to avert any untoward incident. Talking to reporters later, MLA Sharma claimed the army does do not possess proper documents as proof of it owning the disputed land in Painakumari. 

Whenever a new army superior gets posted in the area, the army starts claiming the land as its own, he said, adding residents of the area have long been facing this issue of evacuation. Further, Sharma said he has requested the Darjeeling DM to hold a meeting with all the stakeholders for a permanent solution to the problem. He also said the Sukna army base was established in 1964, two years after the war with China, but the parents of those presently living in Painakumari had settled there before the army arrived. Painakumari at present is home to about 500 families, informed the legislator.

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