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1 Jul 2017

Uneasy calm in cop attack zone

An uprooted tree laid across a road leading to the garden on Friday.
Picture by Passang Yolmo
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Teesta Valley, June 30: The picturesque Teesta Valley tea garden today resembled a liberated zone - roads blocked with huge boulders and tree trunks and hundreds of people shouting the Gorkhaland slogan.
A day after a police patrol team was attacked by a mob that snatched a rifle and pistol from them, an uneasy calm prevailed over the area.
The team of 20 policemen had visited the Teesta Valley yesterday after a community hall, which housed security personnel until a few months ago, was torched.
The mob had descended on the two vehicles ferrying the policemen, prompting the cops to beat a hasty retreat. Till late evening yesterday, the police administration was trying to locate the team and bring them back.
The Valley is situated about 40km from Darjeeling. One has to trek for more than half-an-hour from Bhanjyang, a 4km uphill-downhill walk, to reach the epicentre of last night's violence. Numerous blocks and boulders have been put up on the road.
In this green island, there is both fear and hope. Fear that trouble would spiral over this relatively peaceful area and hope that the issue of statehood would be solved without a repeat of yesterday's violence.
It was in the Teesta Valley that Subash Ghisingh had started his Gorkhaland campaign with a public meeting on September 22, 1985.
Asked about yesterday's violence, a resident said: "The police had been patrolling the area for the past few days. They had been aiming the search lights on our houses, going to the garden hospital to find if Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders are staying there. We are peace-loving people. That is why we had not resisted them until yesterday."
"Last evening around 7pm, we were in our homes when the police entered Munsi village in two vehicles. We heard screams from the village. That is when the entire village turned against them," he added.
A senior police officer said the patrol team had been mistaken for a raid party.
Sources said when the mob descended on the police team, the 20-odd policemen had to beat a hasty retreat. "Four of them got separated from the group, of whom one was a local resident. He knew the shorter routes and escaped. The three others were beaten up. But some in the same group saved their lives and let them go," said another garden worker.
The police said the condition of an assistant sub-inspector and two constables were stable.
The residents said they had found a rifle and pistol. "Some workers found the guns and gave them to the garden manager, who must have handed them over to the police," a villager said. "Our intentions weren't wrong".
Akhilesh Chaturvedi, the superintendent of police, Darjeeling, said: "The weapons were snatched last night but it has been recovered. We cannot disclose the details."

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