Cooch Behar stir lifted, five policemen injured in clash

Kolkata, Feb 23 (IANS) With at least two passengers losing their lives due to the indefinite rail blockade demanding statehood or union territory status for Cooch Behar in northern West Bengal, the Greater Cooch Behar People’s Association (GCPA) on Tuesday temporarily withdrew the agitation, even as police carried out an operation to clear the rail tracks in which five policemen and some protesters sustained injuries.

The GCPA, however, asserted it has temporarily withdrawn the stir on its own, and not due to the police action.

GCPA agitators have been laying siege to the tracks at New Cooch Behar station seeking dialogue with union home ministry officials to resolve the issue.

Cooch Behar district police and Government Railway Police on the day carried out an operation to clear the rail track, that led to pitched battles between police and the agitators.

“We arrested 14 people including two central committee members of GCPA. The tracks have been cleared,” said Superintendent of Railway Police (Siliguri) E. Annappa.

Annappa said at least five policemen and some protesters sustained injuries.

The fourth day of agitation on Tuesday threw train movement haywire across the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), with at least 22 trains including the Brahmaputra Mail and Mahananda Express being cancelled.

While 29-year-old Benoy Thakur, onboard the stranded Kanchanjunga Express, died on Sunday due to alleged lack of medical aid, 56-year-old Rabina Khatun travelling to her hometown in Chapra in Bihar for treatment collapsed and died at the Alipurduar station.

“We have withdrawn our agitation temporarily today (Tuesday), but that doesn’t mean we have given up on our demands. We are discussing with various stakeholders and soon will restart our agitation,” GCPA chief Bangshi Badan Barman said.

Barman said the GCPA was still awaiting a response from the Centre on its pleas for a dialogue.

“We have written to various central government authorities, including the home ministry, seeking a dialogue over the issue. We are yet to get any reply,” he added.

Alipurduar divisional railway manager Sanjeev Kishore said the railways were awaiting a nod from police for resuming train services.

“Police and the district administration have initiated an operation to remove the agitators from the tracks. Once we get a communication from them, we will undertake an inspection for resuming the services,” said Kishore.

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