Darjeeling: Angry Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activists today torched at least four police vehicles and threw stones at policemen who used tear-gas shells to disperse the mob in Darjeeling. The state government had asked for Army assistance. Accordingly, two columns with 80 men each, have been deployed to control the situation. There will also be a 12-hour bandh tomorrow.
As soon as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee came out of the Raj Bhawan, where she had a meeting with 30 of her top ministers, clashes erupted between the GJM supporters and the police.
The police resorted to lathi-charge and fired tear gas shells to disperse the violent mob. The agitators held a dharna, raised slogans against the chief minister, tried to damage barricades and hurled brickbats. According to reports, protesters also threw bombs at the policemen who had to open fire in retaliation. Some security personnel received serious injuries.
The violence erupted near Bhanu Bhavan where the GJM supporters were holding a rally to demand a separate state of Gorkhaland and a written assurance from the Mamata Banerjee government that it won't 'impose' Bengali in the north Bengal hills and that "Bengali could be learnt as a fourth language".
Ms Banerjee was greeted with black flag protests when she came to Darjeeling on Sunday. Angry processions were held in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong the day after. She tried to tell the angry protesters that her decision was being wrongly interpreted. During a rally at Mirik in Darjeeling's foothills, she said, "Bengali would not be made compulsory in Darjeeling."
She repeated herself after the cabinet meeting today.
Meanwhile, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, said the TMC was trying to 'dilute' real issues affecting the hills and threatened to revive Gorkhaland movement.
"In the next few days the Gorkhaland movement will start. The people of the hills are still with the GJM. We are unitedly fighting for Gorkhaland," he said.
Ms Banerjee on the other hand has accused the GJM of doing divisive politics in the hills and questioned the performance of the GJM-ruled Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), a semi-autonomous administrative body for the Darjeeling and Kalimpong hills. She added that the money sent by the state government had been misused by the GTA.
(With inputs from agencies)