GJM attacks tourists from city, 8 injured

JALPAIGURI: The violence in Darjeeling took a grisly turn on Wednesday evening when Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters waylaid two groups of tourists from Kolkata near the Gorumara sanctuary and attacked them with choppers and iron rods, leaving eight badly injured. Among the victims are an elderly couple and four women. The attack marked a terrifying escalation of violence in the Gorkhaland stir. On Tuesday, GJM men smashed up buses but spared tourists. Within 24 hours, they turned fear into terror. Bimal Kumar Nandan (71) and wife Durgarani (59) clutched each other desperately as they were dragged out of their car and bashed up. The five others in their group were brutally assaulted. Their driver, a local, wasn’t spared either. Most of the victims are from Behala. Apart from the Nandan couple, five others were identified: Sarmishtha Das (27), Tapas Pal (26), Saikat Bakshi (29), Basanti Pal (45) and Saroj Sinha. This is the first-ever attack on tourists in the 25-year-old strife in the Hills. Even when the Gorkhaland agitation was at its peak in the 1980s, no non-Nepali person — not to speak of tourists — was harmed. The incident has sent shockwaves through the entire region, increasing anxiety among tourists who are still trapped. The 16-member team was returning from a trip to Chapramari forest in two cars when it ran into GJM activists at Khunia More on NH-31C at 6 pm. The GJM men, on their way back from Malbazar, were furious that tourists were moving around despite the strike and started pelting stones at them. One of the vehicles sped away. This angered them even more. Armed with iron rods and bhojalis, they attacked the second car. Windows were shattered, wounding the passengers. They were then dragged out of the vehicle along with the driver and assaulted. As the eight tourists lay bleeding on the highway, the GJM men set the car on fire and fled. By this time the other vehicle had managed to reach Lataguri. The panic-stricken tourists informed the resort owner, who called police and set off for Khunia More. The injured were taken to Mongolbari primary health centre at Chalsa and shifted to a hospital in Lataguri. The administration clamped Section 144 in Malbazar after the attack. IG (North Bengal) K L Tamta would only say that some tourists were “heckled and assaulted”. The situation is tense in several places in the Dooars. Warring groups have assembled and clashes could break out anytime. “It is shameful. Never before have tourists been attacked in the Dooars,” said DFO (wildlife-II) Tapas Das.

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