Darjeeling turns battleground: Two civilians killed, IRB commandant injured
Darjeeling: At least two persons were killed and a security personnel seriously injured in Saturday’s clashes between Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters and security forces in Darjeeling.
A spokesperson for the GJM said two supporters were killed in police firing but the state administration vehemently denied opening fire on a procession. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said shots were fired from the GJM procession.
Assistant Commandant of the IRB’s 2nd Battalion Kiran Tamang was initially thought to be dead and superintendent of police of Darjeeling district Akhilesh Chaturvedi even declared him dead but the chief minister said later that he was critically injured after being beaten up by GJM supporters.
This is the first time people have died in violence in Darjeeling since unrest started in the district on 8 June. With tension escalating, Banerjee said on Saturday the state was open to hold talks with the GJM but negotiations were impossible if violence didn’t end.
The unrest intensified on Thursday after the police conducted a raid on the home of GJM chief Bimal Gurung and claimed to have unearthed a cache of arms and explosives. The GJM immediately turned its partial strike into an indefinite general strike.
The incident, in which several people were injured, prompted the administration to deploy Army contingents in the area. Activists of the GJM, spearheading the agitation demanding a separate state since June 8, took out a protest rally from the party headquarters in Singmari.
As prohibitory orders were in force in the area, the police told the protesters, who were carrying the tricolour and GJM flags, to return. The slogan-shouting protesters did not relent and started throwing stones and bottles at the police. A vehicle was also set on fire.
“We asked them to go back but they started throwing stones, bottles and petrol bombs. We had to resort to lathi- charge,” a senior police official said. Some police personnel and GJM activists were injured in the clash, the police said.
A large contingent of police and paramilitary personnel was rushed to the spot under the command of a superintendent of police and other senior IPS officers. Barring pharmacies, all others shops and hotels were closed in Darjeeling.
The GJM has called an indefinite shutdown in the hills. Reacting to today’s violence, Tourism Minister Gautam Deb said, “The government will not accept the GJM’s hooliganism.” GJM leaders said Vikram Rai, son of GJM MLA Amar Rai, was “picked up” by the police from Darjeeling.
Vikram is the in-charge of the GJM’s media cell. The police last night raided the residence of senior GJM leader Binay Tamang, following which party activists tried to torch a PWD office in Bijanbari area here.
With inputs from PTI