Bricks fly as bridge turns into battlefield

Siliguri, June 12: A brick-battle between two communities residing on either side of the Mahananada here almost spiralled out of control today before the administration imposed Section 144 to prevent the violence from turning ethnic.
Although it is not certain which side threw the first stone, a 300-strong crowd from Ganesh Ghosh Colony, opposed to Gorkhaland, was spotted on the First Mahananda Bridge around 12.30pm, heading for Bhanunagar, a Nepali dominated area (see map). Almost all of them were armed with catapults and sticks.
The Nepalis in Bhanunagar got ready to retaliate and soon stones rained from both sides on NH31. The 10 or so policemen posted on the bridge, who turned away the mob, were not spared either. The men in khaki gave chase to the attackers and burst three rounds of tear gas shells to disperse them.
The more determined in the crowd then left the bridge to cross the riverbed, which at some places had knee-deep water. Around 100 of them crossed over and the bank was soon dotted with the “armed men”. A hail of stones came down on the houses in Bhanunagar.
“Before I could realise anything, there was a sound of shattering glass and the windowpanes of my bedroom were gone,” said Dilmaya Dhungel, who stays in Bhanunagar.
A force from the Bhaktinagar police station in Jalpaiguri district then approached Bhanunagar. Accompanied by the supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, they managed to drive away the crowd, which ran for the river.
A second police contingent, led by the additional police supereintendent, Siliguri, Rajesh Yadav, marched towards Ganesh Ghosh Colony. Yadav and one of his men were injured when the mob threw stones at them before fleeing. The police then fired 27 rounds of teargas. By then the police had taken control of the bridge and the additional district magistrate of Siliguri, Paritosh Roy, declared Section 144 (unlawful assembly of four or more persons) in the area for an indefinite period.
K.L. Tamta, the inspector-general of police also reached the spot. “There had been some stray incidents and at least nine of our men were injured, but our well-timed intervention helped bring the situation under control,” he said.
Earlier in the day there had been a flare-up at Pradhannagar where some Morcha supporters allegedly opened some shops and put up their party flags. The enforcers of the bandh called by the Amra Bangali forced them to down shutters. Fearing a ransack, the shopowners downed shutters and brought down the Morcha flags. The police came a few minutes later and dispersed the mob. (The Telegraph)

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