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8 Jul 2017

Darjeeling unrest: Two killed, Trinamool office and toy train station vandalised in fresh violence

Darjeeling unrest
Police personnel stand near the burning railway station during an indefinite strike called by separatist group Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) in Darjeeling on July 8, 2017. (AFP Photo)
Pramod Giri , HT, 8 July 2017, Siliguri, Protesters set afire a Trinamool Congress office and a police vehicle and attacked a World Heritage Site on Saturday as fresh violence erupted in Darjeeling after the death of two people, allegedly in firing by police trying to quell a violent statehood agitation.
The West Bengal government called in the army, just a week after they were withdrawn from the hill districts where the Gorkhaland agitation is raging for nearly two months. While police refused to take phone calls of reporters, the state government denied any police firing.
The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), which is leading the statehood movement, said one person was killed in Darjeeling on Saturday while another was shot dead on Friday night at Sonada, nearly 20 km from the district headquarter town.
The renewed violence could pose a fresh challenge for chief minister Mamata Banerjee who is battling communal violence at Basirhat in North 24 Parganas. The ruling Trinamool accuses the BJP of instigating violence in both Darjeeling and Basirhat. The BJP is an ally of the GJM.


“The violence in Darjeeling is a planned one. There are foreign links to this violence,” the chief minister said at a press conference in Kolkata.
She also accused the Central government of “disintegrating federalism” by not sending paramilitary forces to control violence in Darjeeling and Bashirat.
Banerjee said the government has “been restrained enough though the protesters set fire to fire brigade, government offices, police establishments, vehicles”.
“Let the government send food and essential items and allow the children to return to schools. If you allow it, we can even call them for talks in 10-15 days.”
She referred to the Sonada incident as an “accident” but did not mention the other death claimed by the GNLF.
Darjeeling, known as the Queen of the Hills for its picturesque tourist spots, and other hill areas of the state are on the boil since the first week of June when the GJM launched an agitation over alleged attempts to impose Bengali in schools of the Gorkha-dominated hills.
The GJM later revived the 110-year old statehood demand but has refused to hold talks with the Mamata-led government.
An indefinite shutdown in the hills completed 24 days on Saturday.
On Saturday protesters fought pitched battles with police before setting ablaze a Trinamool office at George Bazar, sources said. The protesters also pelted stones at police who responded with tear gas shells and rubber bullets.
Protesters also set the waiting room and vandalised furniture at a station of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly known as the toy train. It is the second time during the agitation when protesters have targeted the tourist attraction.
Binay Tamang, assistant general secretary of GJM, said the state government has launched a reign of terror in the hills.
On June 17, three persons were allegedly killed in police firing in Singamari , about 2 km from Darjeeling town.
Earlier this week, the newly formed 30-member Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee decided to continue the indefinite bandh. The government banned internet services in the hills since June 19.
Darjeeling hills have been witnessing arson and vandalism on government properties particularly after June 15 when the house and the office of GJM president Bimal Gurung were raided by police.
The agitation started off as protests against an alleged move by the Trinamool government to impose Bengali in schools in the hills where most people speak Nepali.
The GJM administers the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration.
(With inputs from HT Correspondent in Kolkata)

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