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18 Jun 2017

Bullets fly in battleground Darjeeling

Jayanta Gupta & Deep Gazmer | TNN | Jun 18, 2017,DARJEELING: The 10th day of the Darjeeling stand-off saw blood being spilled on the streets, with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha claiming death of three supporters in police firing and a central paramilitary force assistant commandant battling for life after agitators slashed his throat.
The state administration denied the GJM charge, saying the police never opened fire. Instead, it accused the GJM supporters of opening fire but stayed mum on the casualty count.
The violence prompted the government to call a peace meeting with all Hills parties in Siliguri on June 22, but GJM president Bimal Gurung stepped up the ante, asking every Gorkha family to come out against the administration. "I salute the martyrs killed in police firing. I call upon every Gorkha family to come out against the state administration that has unleashed this repression," Gurung said from an undisclosed location.
At least four places within 10 km of Darjeeling town turned into war zones right from Saturday morning as GJM supporters, armed with stones, bottles and khukris, engaged security forces in several rounds of pitched battle. The main conflagration points were Singmari, Ghoom, Lebong and Chowkbazar, each of these places seeing up to 2,000 GJM supporters hitting the streets, setting vehicles on fire and targeting security forces and government establishments and vehicles.
The GJM accused cops of firing at protesters near St Joseph's College in Singmari, about five km from Darjeeling town, and Ghoom. "Three of our supporters, Sunil Rai, Mukesh Gurung and Bimal Shashankar, died in the police firing," GJM leader Binay Tamang said.
But additional director general (law & order) Anuj Sharma said the gunshots came from the other side. An assistant commandant of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB)'s 2nd Battalion, Kiran Tamang, was critical after agitators slashed his throat when he tried to prevent them from setting police vehicles on fire in front of Singmari police outpost.
The biggest conflagration happened at Singmari, near the GJM's main office on Lebong Cart Road, close to St Joseph's College, St Joseph's School, North Point School, Darjeeling Zoo and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. GJM workers used a steep bend here to their advantage, throwing rocks the size of bricks at policemen and then disappearing around the bend and into alleys uphill.
Cops realised around 11.15 am that they were heavily outnumbered and fled even as GJM supporters torched parked police vehicles. The cops regrouped after sometime, lobbing tear gas shells, and it was then that gunshots were heard.
The protest at Singmari was boosted by a group from Lebong. Mahila Morcha supporters, carrying the Tricolour and shouting "Jai Gorkha" slogans, were at the vanguard of the Lebong march with the menfolk — carrying traditional weapons — marching behind them. Stopped by security forces, they broke the barricade but, without resorting to violence, marched ahead and took up position at Singmari where rallies from other points converged before the showdown.
GJM supporters in Ghoom and Kurseong took a cue from Nandigram, felling trees to block police vehicles.
The immediate provocation for the violence seemed to be an early-morning police raid on GJM leader Binay Tamang's house, two days after security forces broke into GJM president Bimal Gurung's Patlewas residence. Tamang's family members alleged that police broke into their residence around 3 am and ransacked it and that Trinamool members accompanied the police. Security forces also picked up college teacher and GJM spokesperson Vikram Rai, son of Darjeeling MLA Asok Rai, but later released him.
The violence prompted the state government to call a peace meeting with all Hills parties in Siliguri on June 22. "I won't be here for a couple of days and so I have asked the state home secretary to hold a peace meeting with all Hills party representatives and members of the 15 development boards in Siliguri on June 22," chief minister Mamata Banerjee said.
But, shortly after the announcement, GJM president Gurung stepped up the ante, asking every Gorkha family to come out against the state administration. "I salute the martyrs killed in police firing. I call upon every Gorkha family to come out against the state administration that has unleashed this repression," Gurung said from an undisclosed location.
The party has called a 12-hour bandh against police atrocities and included Dooars to extend its outreach to the Terai and Dooars regions.
(Source & Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/bullets-fly-in-battleground-darjeeling/articleshow/59198536.cms )

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