Kolkata/Darjeeling : Violent protests for statehood in Darjeeling took an ugly turn on Saturday as a security personnel was stabbed and local Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders, who are spearheading the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland in the Hills of West Bengal, claimed police firing killed two of its cadres.
Following the large-scale vandalism, curfew has been clamped in the hill town.
Police said Kiran Tamang, an India Reserve Battalion officer, was stabbed in the back with a traditional Gorkha khukri as security forces struggled to contain thousands-strong mobs that torched police vehicles and ransacked government property, shouting anti-government slogans.
“Five years you enjoyed, now when elections are coming you start violence because you have lost credibility,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said in Kolkata, hitting out at the GJM leadership. The elections to the autonomous Gorkha Territorial Administration controlled by the GJM are due in August.
But GJM assistant secretary Binay Tamang alleged that two supporters were gunned down by the police. Additional Director-General of Police (law and order) Anuj Sharma denied police had shot at protesters but local television footage showed forces firing bullets in the air.
“We want a judicial inquiry into the firing. Police did not fire rubber bullets or water cannons. They opened fire using .303 bullets. Are we the enemies of India?” Tamang told reporters.
Thousands of tourists have fled Darjeeling — known as the queen of the hills — since clashes broke out on June 8 between the GJM and the government forces. The hill parties, led by the BJP ally GJM, have come together to press for a 100-year-old demand to separate Gorkhaland from the plains of West Bengal, a demand bitterly opposed by Mamata Banerjee.
Violence has spiralled in the hills after a police raid on the office of GJM chief Bimal Gurung, who is in hiding fearing arrest. Political observers fear that bloodshed might return to Darjeeling as in the 80s, when hundreds of people died as the state government brutally suppressed the
movement. An autonomous hill council with special administrative powers was set up as a compromise but is riddled with allegations of corruption and government stalling projects.