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17 Jun 2017

Darjeeling unrest turns violent; GJM claims 2 supporters killed

TNN, Kolkata, Jun 17, 2017:  NEW DELHI: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee went on the offensive on Saturday and slammed the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) for the ongoing unrest in Darjeeling as protesters clashed with security forces in the city's Singmari area.

GJM leader Binay Tamang claimed that two of his party workers were killed when the police opened fire at the GJM procession in Singmari, an allegation which was hotly denied by the ADG of police.

"It was the GJM activists who opened fire at the police and set police vehicles on fire. One GJM supporter died due to firing by GJM supporters," ADG (law and order) Anuj Sharma said, asserting that the police did not open fire.

Backing up the ADG's statement, chief minister Mamata Banerjee also stated that the police has not fired on the Morcha workers and supporters. She claimed that the GJM had connections to terrorists and firearms were collected and distributed among the party workers to spread unrest just before the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) election.

"Five years you (GJM) enjoyed, now when elections are coming you start violence because you have lost credentials... What is happening is a deep rooted conspiracy. These arms were not collected in a day, they were collected over time," Mamata told reporters at a press briefing.

SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi had claimed that IRB second battalion Assistant Commandant Kiran Tamang was killed after GJM supporters attacked him during the rally, but CM Mamata Banerjee dismissed the reports and clarified that Tamang was alive, but in critical condition.

She said that the state government was open to talks with the GJM but warned that violence was no way to resolve the issue.

"We're ready to talk to them, but we cannot support violation of the Constitution," the chief minister said.

GJM activists threw petrol bombs and stones at riot police after they attempted to stop their "Go Patlebas" rally earlier in the day. In retaliation, the security personnel fired teargas shells and resorted to baton charge to disperse the mob. Eight police personnel were injured amid the clashes.

In light of the Singmari incident and the police raids at the residence of party functionaries, GJM leader Binay Tamang said there were no plans to call off the indefinite strike and that the Morcha would further intensify their movement till their demands were met.

"Police is illegally entering supporters houses and torturing them. Two of them were killed by police (in the protest rally). We will strengthen our movement now," Tamang said.

As the indefinite shutdown to demand a separate state entered its sixth day, GJM activists took out a protest rally from the party headquarters in Singmari. Police told the demonstrators to return as prohibitory orders were in force in the area, but the crowd did not relent and began pelting stones at the security forces and set police vehicles ablaze.

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