25 injured in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri clashes


Siliguri : At least 25 people, including 10 policemen, were injured Wednesday following clashes between rival Gorkhaland groups at Hamiltonganj in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, an official said.

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After the disturbances, the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) – which is agitating for a separate Gorkhaland state in the northern part of Bengal – gave a call for a 12-hour shutdown in Darjeeling Hills and the neighbouring Terai and Dooars regions Thursday.

The disturbances occurred when GJM activists laid a siege to the Block Development Office and the Gram Panchayat office at Hamiltonganj under Alipurduar sub-division, and met with resistance from workers of the Jana Jagaran Manch, which is opposed to the creation of a Gorkhaland state.

The clashing groups used iron rods and stones, and atatcked the police too when they tried to step in, said Inspector General of Police (North Bengal) Kundan Lal Tamta.

“As the situation seemed to go out of hand, the police made a baton charge,” Tamta said.

The ten injured police personnel include the Kalchini circle inspector and the officer-in-charge of the Kalchini police station.

Fifteen others belonging to the two clashing groups also sustained injuries.

Irate GJM activists later attacked parliament member Joachim Baxla’s residence, damaging the window panes, said Jalpaiguri District Magistrate Bandana Yadav.

Senior police officials, including special inspector general of police (Jalpaiguri range) Zulfiqar Hassan and superintendent of police Jalpaiguri Manoj Verma, have rushed to the spot.

Two television channels claimed that security personnel lobbed tear-gas shells and fired two rounds in the air, but the police did not confirm it.

Later, the GJM convened an emergency meeting and called a 12-hour shutdown in Darjeeling Hills, Terai and Dooars spread over Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts.

Claiming that 27 of their supporters have been injured in attacks by supporters of the Jana Jagaran Manch and state’s ruling Left Front partners Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), GJM press and publicity secretary Benoy Tamang demanded the arrests of attackers by Thursday.

“Our women activists have been assaulted, and the houses of our supporters burnt down. If the culprits are not put behind bars by Thursday, we will launch an extensive movement from Friday,” Tamang said.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, Baxla expressed shock and surprise over the attack on his house.

“I never thought my house will be attacked. I feel bad. It’s true we are opposed to any division of our state, but I have always been with the poor people,” said Baxla, who represents the Revolutionary Socialist Party.

The GJM has been spearheading a movement in the hills for a separate state.

It organised indefinite shutdowns twice in the hills in June and July over its Gorkhaland demand, severely hitting tea and tourism – the bread and butter of the region.

A round of tripartite talks held in New Delhi to solve the problem has not broken the deadlock.