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31 Jul 2017

Naxalbari stops Morcha march attempt - Siliguri bike rally against statehood

A policeman injured in the clash in Jaigaon on Sunday.
Picture by Anirban Choudhury
TT, Siliguri, July 30: An attempt by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to organise a march in Naxalbari was foiled today by local residents who set up blocks at three entry points and took out an anti-statehood procession.
The Morcha eventually put off plans to hold the rally and accused Trinamul of foiling its attempts. In Siliguri also, youths took out a bike rally to protest the Gorkhaland demand and yesterday's violence in Sukna.
Morcha supporters had yesterday engaged themselves in a pitched battle with police in Sukna, taking their agitation tantalisingly close to the plains. The hill party's attempts to organise statehood rallies in the plains are being construed as a bid to draw out the Centre and the Bengal government that have been playing a stoic waiting game.
Trinamul leaders in Naxalbari and Siliguri, 20km away, said the protests against statehood were spontaneous as residents of the plains didn't want the ongoing agitation in the hills to spill over to their areas.
Sources said no sooner had the residents of Naxalbari come to know that Morcha supporters from outside were planning a rally in the town, they gathered at four spots to thwart the hill party's bid. They brought tyres and set them on fire at Panighata More, Kalibari More and Ghatani More - the entry points at Naxalbari.
Later, the residents organised a rally of their own, demanding action against those responsible for yesterday's violence in Sukna.
"We protested the Morcha's attempts to spread tension in the plains. Yesterday's incident has proved that they want to bring disruption to the plains. We do not want the division of Bengal and our lives to be affected," said a Naxalbari resident.
Apprehending a breach in law and order, the police sprang into action and patrolled the area. The Morcha subsequently dropped the plan to hold the march.
"All such protests are being organised by Trinamul leaders. We could not hold a rally in Naxalbari today but we would continue our demonstrations," said Durga Sharma, the block president of the Morcha in Sukna.
What started as a residents' resistance in Naxalbari in the morning soon spread to Siliguri, where a group of youths took out a bike rally.
"This bike rally is for peace and amity and against the demand for Gorkhaland. We condemn the violence in Sukna yesterday," a biker said.
The hill economy has taken a hit because of the indefinite agitation that entered its 46th day today. Unrest in Siliguri - the biggest trade hub in Bengal after Calcutta and a part of the strategic Chicken's Neck area - has the potential to cause havoc to north Bengal's economy.

An uneasy calm prevailed in Sukna today, a day after the violence. Around 100 Morcha supporters demonstrated in front of the local police outpost, shouting slogans in favour of a Gorkhaland state and protesting alleged police atrocities yesterday.
They also submitted a memorandum to the police, demanding the release of local residents who, they claimed, had been arrested yesterday.
"We did not indulge in any violent activity and held a peaceful rally yesterday. But the rally was stopped by the police. When we protested, they attacked us and ransacked several houses and vehicles. We condemn such attacks and have submitted a memorandum to police officers," Sharma said.
From the police outpost, the Morcha supporters took out a rally that moved along NH55. The rally stopped at Rongtong Bridge, the entry point to Sukna, after covering around 1km.
Later, the protesters placed boulders on the highway near the bridge to prevent the movement of vehicles.
Shops remained closed in Sukna and Salbari, the nearby locality on the way to Siliguri.

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