Army on alert in Siliguri after violence over Gorkhaland demand

Darjeeling, June 12: The Army was alerted in Siliguri and adjacent areas after violent clashes today between Gorkhas and non-Gorkhas during a 48-hour bandh called by the little known Amra Bangali and backed by Jana Chetana, an outfit formed to oppose the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) demand for inclusion of Siliguri and areas of the Dooars in a separate state of Gorkhaland.
By afternoon, SSB border guards were out in many parts of Siliguri town and on its outskirts.
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was asked by Left Front partner CPI to “hold talks without pre-conditions” with the GJM, decided to call an all-party meeting on June 17 to discuss the Darjeeling crisis over the demand for a separate Gorkhaland.
Describing the Siliguri incidents as “a matter of the greatest anxiety”, Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi urged people to do nothing “that will provoke violence”.
In New Delhi, the Union Home Ministry said it had moved nearly 1,000 Central paramilitary personnel to West Bengal to deal with the situation.
In Darjeeling, GJM chief Bimal Gurung slammed the ruling CPM for “trying to make another Nandigram of Siliguri and the foothills with its murderous cadres”.
“No one had ever seen either the Amra Bangali or Jana Chetana which are behind the bandh and the violence today. They are just a front for the CPM and Asok Bhattacharjee, West Bengal Minister who hails from Siliguri,” alleged Gurung, asking GJM supporters to remain calm.
Violence erupted in the Champasari area of Siliguri — it has a mixed population of Gorkhas, Bengalis, Biharis and others — after non-Gorkhas, especially traders hit by the GJM agitation, came out in strength and joined an Amra Bangali procession which began targeting Gorkhas, assaulting them.
Those who led the attacks claimed they were teaching the GJM a “lesson for harassing Bengali tourists” in the hills. Violence soon spread to areas like Pradhan Nagar, Sahidnagar, Bidhan Market and other pockets of the town. In Bagdogra, a Gorkha student’s motorcycle was smashed and set ablaze.
Taken aback by the attacks, the Gorkhas began grouping and hit back. Police had to teargas mobs at several places to try and restore order. As news of the attacks on Gorkhas reached Darjeeling, tension mounted and GJM activists called up their head office to check whether they should retaliate in the hills. But GJM leaders, including Bimal Gurung, told them not to resort to violence.
“Do not walk into Minister Asok Bhattacharjee’s trap,” Gurung told angry activists. “If the situation does not improve, we will send 50,000 volunteers to provide security to Gorkhas. We do not want to take the blame for communal violence in Darjeeling. The agitation for Gorkhaland should be fought peacefully, in a Gandhian way,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has asked the Prime Minister to intervene. “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should personally intervene to resolve the problems in the Darjeeling hills permanently so that the people of Sikkim can lead a peaceful life without being put to difficulty due to bandhs on the National Highway which is the state’s sole road link with the rest of the country,” Chamling said in a letter to the PM.
CPM, Trinamool clash again, one killed
COOCH BEHAR: A college student was killed and several others were injured in a clash between supporters of CPM and Trinamool Congress at Nakkatigachh near Tufanganj in Cooch Behar district, police said. BSF personnel were deployed in the area. Fifteen people were arrested, police said. (Indian Express)


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