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  India   All India  18 Jun 2017  Darjeeling on edge as clashes worsen

Darjeeling on edge as clashes worsen

Published : Jun 18, 2017, 1:02 am IST
Updated : Jun 18, 2017, 1:02 am IST

Ms Banerjee slammed the GJM for the ongoing unrest, while making oblique references to the BJP’s support of the protesters.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (Photo: PTI)
 West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (Photo: PTI)

Kolkata: As violent protests for statehood in the Darjeeling Hills took an ugly turn on Saturday, with the police and supporters of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) engaging in violent clashes, and one reported death, Union home minister Rajnath Singh called up West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to discussed the situation.

During the telephonic conversation, the chief minister briefed Mr Singh about the steps taken to maintain law and order.

West Bengal also wrote to the Centre, seeking more forces to quell the current unrest in Darjeeling Hills.

Trouble began early on Saturday, in reaction to the arrest of the son of a Morcha MLA and police raid on a senior GJM leader’s house on Friday night.

Morcha supporters alleged that the police had ransacked his house and started pelting stones and hurling petrol bombs at the police.

While the GJM claimed that two of its supporters were killed in Darjeeling’s Singmari when the police opened fire, an allegation denied by the police, the ADG police said that an officer had been stabbed by Morcha protesters and 19 of the 35 police officials injured were hospitalised.

A police vehicle was also set on fire by protesters, authorities said.

Ms Banerjee slammed the GJM for the ongoing unrest, while making oblique references to the BJP’s support of the protesters.

“They are using the national flag for vandalism, which they cannot do. I will request the Central government not to encourage them to behave like this. If anything happens to any foreigner (tourist) it will bring bad name to the country… What is happening is a deep-rooted conspiracy. These arms were not collected in a day, they were collected over time,” Ms Banerjee said.

Her remarks drew a derisive response from BJP chief Amit Shah, who said she saw “conspiracy in everything”.

Bimal Gurung’s GJM is an ally of the BJP in NDA. Mr Banerjee claimed that the GJM has connections with terrorists and that firearms were collected and distributed among party workers to spread unrest just before the (GTA) election.

“Five years you (GJM) enjoyed, now when elections are coming you start violence because you have lost credibility,” Ms Banerjee said. The agitation in Darjeeling was initially against the forced implementation of Bengali language in schools, but soon transformed into a renewed demand for a separate Gorkhaland.  

Reacting to Morcha’s claim that two of their supporters were killed in police firing, additional director general of police (law and order) Anuj Sharma said, “It was the Morcha’s people who fired. Several of our vehicles were set on fire, government property ransacked and as many as 35 police personnel were injured, including serious injury to Kiran Tamang, an India Reserve Battalion officer who was stabbed in the back with a traditional Gorkha knife.”

Ms Banerjee backed the police’s claims and said that GJM has fired and not the police. “Many of their (GJM) leaders have been chargesheeted in the Madan Tamang murder case. They are doing this vandalism to save themselves. Law will take its own course. We cannot support vandalism,” she said. GJM leaders however demanded a judicial probe into the death of their two supporters. “We want judicial probe in the death due to police firing. Police did not fire rubber bullets or water cannons. They opened fire using .303 bullets. Are we the enemies of India?” Morcha spokesperson and assistant general secretary, Binay Tamang, said. Later in the day the GJM called a 12-hour bandh in the plains at Doars where a large number of tourists have been staying after they cut short their stay in Darjeeling due to the unrest. Ransacking and torching of vehicles, including buses, was reported from Singmari, Lebong, Chawkbazar and Ghoom. A vehicle of the electricity board was also set on fire at Gorubathan.

In retaliation, the security personnel fired teargas shells and resorted to baton charge to disperse the mob. Army personnel were seen busy with their area domination all through the day.

Seven Morcha supporters were arrested by the police.

Tags: gorkha janmukti morcha (gjm), mamata banerjee, rajnath singh, darjeeling hills
Location: India, West Bengal, Calcutta [Kolkata]