Arson in Kalimpong, GJM marches with bodies of two supporters

Thirty-six policemen were injured, five received gunshot wounds and two were injured by sharp weapons in clashes with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha activists as call for a separate Gorkha state turned violent in Darjeeling on Saturday.

Also, she claimed an Indian Reserve Battalion Assistant Commandant Kiran Tamang had succumbed to his injuries but soon retraced her statements saying "he is grievously hurt and is fighting for his life".

Her remarks drew a derisive response from BJP chief Amit Shah, who said she saw "conspiracy in everything". Earlier, IRB sources said Tamang was killed in the clash. The report further added that GJM supporters had been killed in police firing after their women's wing - Nari Morcha - organised a rally in Singmari.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday said police did not fire a single round. There was no police firing.

"We have apprised the Home Minister about the high-handedness of the police in dealing with the protesters in Darjeeling and have asked him to look into the matter".

Tamsang Lepcha, head of Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board, biggest and most influential among the 15 bodies, told HT that a committee comprising members of these boards, constituted to restore peace in the hills, will speak to people and persuade them to shun violence and call off strike.

"Whatever is happening is a deep rooted conspiracy", Banarjee told reporters.

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GJM workers, who launched their agitation on June 8, had hurled petrol bombs, stones and bottles at the police at several places on Saturday, which led the security forces to lob teargas shells and resort to baton-charge to disperse the mobs, according to a police official.

"There is a terrorist brain behind this hooliganism and vandalism".

As violence continued unabated in Darjeeling and Kashmir, Home Minister Rajnath Singh Friday night reviewed the security situation in the hill district of West Bengal. "So many bombs and arms can not be gathered in a day", Ms Banerjee said.

A key difference does exist - in Kashmir, the protesters are demanding separation from India while the Darjeeling agitators want a state within the country - but both campaigns have been marked by violence driven by stone-throwing and the hurling of other missiles. We will arrest anybody found violating law and order in the hills.

The GJM supporters blocked the road near Dalsingpara tea estate in Jaigaon, choking the only road connecting India and Bhutan. "The police and the security forces should immediately be removed from the hills as a confidence-building measure", Rai said. She is trying to divert our movement and mislead people.

Meanhwile, shops, hotels and other business establishments, barring pharmacies are closed on the 16th day of the GJM-sponsored indefinite shutdown in the Darjeeling hills.

Bengal CM also accused GJM of using protests as a medium to hide their misgovernance as Darjeeling is to undergo elections.

  • Marjorie Miles