Darjeeling, June 17 (IANS) Trouble-hit Darjeeling and other areas in the north West Bengal hills on Saturday saw fresh violence and arson, as GJM activists, including the women’s wing, came out on the streets in hundreds to protest an alleged police raid on the residence of party assistant General Secretary Binay Tamang.
The area virtually turned into a battlefield as protests marked the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s (GJM) indefinite shutdown which entered the sixth day. The GJM protest to demand a separate Gorkhaland is being countered by supporters of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress.
An officer of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) was critically injured in the violence, while the GJM claimed two of its supporters were killed.
Violence erupted on Saturday after the alleged police raid and vandalising of the residence of Tamang at around 3 a.m.
Tamang claimed his house was “raided and vandalised by the police and the Trinamool Congress cadres” in the same manner as they had raided party chief Bimal Gurung’s house in Darjeeling district two days ago.
He also claimed Vikram Rai, son of party MLA Amar Rai, had been arrested.
However, Amar Rai said his son has no political affiliations and he was released later.
Widespread protests were reported from Singamari, the northern point of Darjeeling, as hundreds of GJM’s women activists rallied with shrill condemnation of the raid, and shouted slogans for a separate Gorkhaland as they held aloft the tricolour.
Several vehicles including three of police were set ablaze.
Later in the day, the effects of the trouble were felt in Kalimpong’s Gorubathan market where GJM supporters allegedly torched a vehicle of the power supply authority, while the Jaldhaka police station was vandalised.
Police fired tear gas shells as the women activists pelted stones and pushed back at the police barricade shouting “Police Go Back”.
Kiran Tamang, Assistant Commander of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB), was critically injured in the clash and was taken to a nursing home for treatment.
The GJM claimed two of their supporters were killed and five were critically injured in police firing, but police denied the allegation.
“Police had not fired. GJM supporters are creating violence and attacking police. Many police personnel are seriously injured. We cannot tolerate this hooliganism,” said Additional Director General (Law & Order) Anuj Sharma.
In other incidents of violence, GJM supporters allegedly pelted stones and lobbed petrol bombs at the residence of Trinamool activist Deoraj Gurung in Lebong Cart Road, attacked a local Trinamool activist’s residence at Pankhabari, and reportedly set a PWD office at Bijonbari on fire.
The Army has also been called in. Official sources said that troops were patrolling in the entire hills.
As the GJM shutdown entered its sixth day, the party called for a 12-hour strike in Dooars on Sunday.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday condemned the vandalism by the GJM and alleged a “deep-rooted conspiracy”.
Meanwhile, GJM chief Bimal Gurung said: “Gorkhas are facing a lot of torture. Two of our supporters have died because of the state government. I appealed to all the Gorkhas to protest against torture.”
BJP state women’s wing president Roopa Ganguly also raised her pitch against the Trinamool government saying the unrest in the hills was due to Banerjee.
“During peak season, tourists were heckled by the Chief Minister with her statements. She should stop lecturing so much and concentrate on her job. With folded hands, I request her to decide first whether she is Trinamool Congress chief or the Chief Minister of the people of the state. If she is the state’s Chief Minister, she is my Chief Minister also,” Ganguly said.
The ongoing agitation has crippled tourism.
The famed toy-train service of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has been suspended in view of the strike.
The GJM announced an indefinite general strike from Monday in the hills encompassing Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and the Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas covering stretches of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar district) protesting against the government’s purported decision to make Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools and to press for a separate state of Gorkhaland.