The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha said that two of its supporters were killed after the police allegedly opened fire on protestors on Saturday. However, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it was a GJM “conspiracy” and that security forces had not fired at them.
One security official is also said to be in critical condition after clashes between them and the GJM. While initial reports said Indian Reserve Battalion’s 2nd Battalion assistant commandant Kiran Tamang, the chief minister said he was still alive.
“Five years you enjoyed, now when elections are coming you start violence because you have lost credibility,” Mamata Banerjee was quoted as saying. “What is happening is a deep rooted conspiracy.”
“GJM supporters started firing at police, set police vehicles on fire. One GJM supporter died due to firing by GJM supporters,” Darjeeling’s Additional Director General of police (Law&Order) was quoted as saying by ANI.
GJM Assistant Secretary Binay Tamang alleged that two of their supporters were gunned down by the police. “We want 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 said. Local television channels had allegedly showed footage where forces could be seen firing bullets in the air.
Earlier, GJM supporters had blocked the Siliguri-Kursoung via Pankhabari road and inititated the “Go Patlebas” mission. The protest, now in its sixth day, saw a rally being organised from three different points – Chawk Bazar, Lebong and Singmari. The protestors were heading to Patlebas, where GJM chief Bimal Gurung’s house is situated. The cops attempted to stop the three rallies at Singmari, which led to the clashes.
On Friday night, the police had arrested Vikram Rai, media manager of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. Party chief Bimal Gurung is still believed to be underground since weapons were found at his office during raids on Thursday.
As Darjeeling on Friday remained shut on the second day of the indefinite strike called by the GJM, the Centre had decided to hold back the additional forces it was sending to the hill district. The Centre had said that it would send the additional 400 paramilitary personnel only after the state government submits a report on the situation.
“We will take a decision on sending additional paramilitary forces only when we make an assessment of the prevailing situation,” an unidentified Home Ministry official told The Indian Express. “It is possible only when we receive a report from the state government.” The Centre had asked for the report on June 13.
Protestors on Friday had vandalised government vehicles on NH10 and set a medical unit on fire. They had also torched a customer care centre of the West Bengal State Electricity Development Corporation Limited. Frequent patrols were conducted by the Army in sensitive areas to avoid untoward incidents.
The unrest started after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced her decision to make Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools. However, she had said that the hill districts would be exempted from the rule, but the GJM started an agitation which soon turned into a revival of the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.