Heritage toy train station torched, police attacked in Darjeeling, army out

Darjeeling : The army was redeployed in Darjeeling Hills on West Bengal on Saturday after fresh violence broke out at Sonada where Gorkhaland supporters torched a police outpost and a toy train heritage station following the death of a youth in alleged police firing on Friday night.

Since Saturday morning, activists of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) spearheading the agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland clashed with the police at Sonada and Chawkbazar in Darjeeling even as the indefinite shutdown in the Hills entered its 24th day.

Two columns of the army comprising around 100 personnel were deployed in Sonada and Darjeeling in the wake of fresh violence, defence sources said.

GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba claimed that Tashi Bhutia was shot dead by the security forces on Friday night when he had gone out to purchase medicines at Sonada. The police, however, said they did not have any report of firing. Bengal’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) Javed Shamim, said, “Whether the cops fired will be known only after the inquiry that has been ordered.”

“We demand that the policemen involved in the killing be punished,” demanded GJM leader Binay Tamang. As news of the death spread, hundreds of Gorkhaland supporters came out on the streets and raised slogans against “police atrocities”. They clashed with the security personnel and set to a police outpost at Sonada and the toy train station of the Darjeeling-Himalayan railways, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Centre had said on Friday that it was keen on holding tripartite talks with the GJM and the West Bengal government to end the agitation. On Saturday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed for peace, saying her government was willing to talk to the agitation leaders over their demands.

With food supply severely hit due to the indefinite strike, the GJM and various NGOs distributed food amongst the people. Barring medicine outlets, all shops, schools, colleges remained closed. The government has suspended internet services in the resort town and strict vigil is being maintained to keep out outsiders.

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