DARJEELING/KOLKATA: On the boil for the past 10 days over a separate state demand, Darjeeling on Saturday witnessed widespread clashes between GJM activists and the police in which one person was killed and 35 security personnel were injured, including an IRB officer seriously.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) workers hurled petrol bombs, stones and bottles at the police at several places which led the security forces to lob teargas shells and resort to baton-charge to disperse the mobs, a police official said, reports PTI.
Army contingents were deployed to control the situation and they staged flag marches in several areas of the violence-hit hill district, where the indefinite shutdown to press for a separate Gorkhaland entered the third day.
Singmari in Darjeeling turned into a battleground as GJM activists threw petrol bombs and stones at the anti-riot police personnel, who fired teargas shells and lathi-charged the agitators.
The incident, in which several people were injured, prompted the administration to deploy the Army.
Besides Singmari, clashes also took place at Lebongcart Road, Chowkbazar and Ghum.
West Bengal ADG (law and order) Anuj Sharma said in Kolkata that one person was killed at Singmari and around 35 policemen were injured, 19 of them seriously.
This was the first death since violent protests returned to Darjeeling on June 8, after a gap of a few years.
The GJM, however, claimed that two party supporters were killed in police firing.
“Two of our comrades were killed in police firing. They are martyrs of the Gorkhaland movement. The people of the hills will not stop until and unless Gorkhaland is achieved,” GJM chief Bimal Gurung said in a statement from an undisclosed location.
“The final battle is on. Either we get our right or die fighting for it,” he said.
Gurung’s claim was dismissed by ADG Sharma. “The police did not open fire. Not a single bullet was fired, It was the GJM which was firing at us,” he said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said in Kolkata that India Rerserve Battalion’s Assistant Commandant Kiran Tamang was critically injured in the violence.
Tamang, who belongs to IRS’s 2nd Battalion, has been shifted to a private nursing home in Siliguri, the police said. Earlier, IRB sources said Tamang was killed in the clash.
“What is happening today is a deep-rooted conspiracy. So many bombs and arms cannot be gathered in a day,” Banerjee told reporters, adding, “I am ready to sacrifice my life, but I will not allow Bengal to be divided.”
She said that the GJM has connections with insurgent groups in the Northeast and some foreign countries. She, however, did not name any insurgent group or foreign country.
“There is a terrorist brain behind this hooliganism. We have got clues that they have connections with underground insurgent groups in the Northeast. There are some other countries also helping,” Banerjee said.