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31 Jul 2017

Gorkhaland: Violent clashes between police and GJM supporters


Gorkhaland supporters take part in a mass rally at Mirik in Darjeeling on Sunday.
Gorkhaland supporters take part in a mass rally at Mirik in Darjeeling on Sunday.(PTI)
Pramod Giri HT, Sukna (Darjeeling), 30 July 2017: Darjeeling hills continued to be on the boil on Sunday following several rounds of clashes between police and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activists spearheading the movement for separate Gorkhaland state.

The epicentre of the clashes was Sukna, about 12 km from Siliguri, where clashes broke out on Saturday after police disallowed a GJM rally. On Sunday, GJM supporters, alleging police atrocities, took out rallies throughout the hills.

GJM leaders like Durga Sharma had a tough time pacifying Morcha activists at Sukna, which at times virtually turned into a battlefield in different phases throughout Sunday.

Although the hills had been on the boil over Gorkhaland agitation since the last two months, situation at Sukna had remained by and large peaceful. Matter turned worse since Saturday after police arrested five GJM activists at Sukna. Agitators gheraoed the police station demanding the release of the five.

Leaders like Sharma wanted to convince them that the police had assured release of the five arrested, provided GJM activists cleared their role. However, she was unable to pacify agitated activists who also blocked the National Highway 55 leading to Sukna with stone boulders. They claimed that the police was torturing innocent local people and even vandalising several residences.

Soon after, the locals took out a small rally in which they declared that they did not need any leader to lead the movement.

Basudev Sharma a retired army personnel, who fought the Kargil War against Pakistan in 1999, said that the way police behaved on Saturday after the clashes made local people insecure.

“Most youths have left their homes and are sleeping outside. The police broke window panes of buildings nearby and arrested innocent people including a deaf and mute person,” Sharma added.

Police had stopped the Saturday rally as activists were carrying khukris, the traditional Gorkha knives, leading to clashes, during which police used water cannons, tear gas shells to disperse the mob. Two Gorkhaland supporters were critically injured.

Tension also broke out at Jaigaon in Alipurduar district where Gorkhaland supporters clashed with police at two places in which one policeman and five agitators were injured.

Rohit Thapa, GJM’s organising secretary in the Dooars, said that on Sunday they had planned a rally at Jaigaon as part of global Gorkhaland unity march. “But police did not allow us,” he said.

At Jaigaon, Gorkhaland supporters broke barricades at two places and clashed with police.

Authorities are now concerned over the spread of the Gorkhaland movement to the plains in Terai and Dooars regions, where it is likely to face stiff opposition from anti-Gorkhaland forces and parties.

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