Violence on in Darjeeling hills, funeral rallies held amid tight security
Sporadic incidents of violence and funeral rallies by pro-Gorkhaland protesters marked the 25th day of the GJM-sponsored indefinite shutdown in the north West Bengal hills on Sunday after a fresh flare-up following the death of three activists allegedly in police firing.
The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) leadership claimed that three of their activists were shot dead by police on Saturday.
"Three of our men were killed by police yesterday. Two died in Darjeeling town while another supporter was shot in Sonada (nearly 17 km away from Darjeeling)," GJM Assistant General Secretary Binay Tamang told IANS.
Amid tight security arrangements by police and other security forces, the GJM supporters on Sunday afternoon brought out three funeral rallies with the bodies of the deceased.
"We took out two funeral rallies in Darjeeling bazar area and one more rally in Sonada to pay out last tribute to the three Gorkha brothers who were killed yesterday.
"We do not have any arms with us. The arms are with police. So it is obvious that the shots were fired by them," said Tamang.
Police denied it was to blame. Earlier in the day, police accused the agitators of setting the Sub-divisional office in Kurseong on fire, resulting in the building getting partially burnt.
The pro-Gorkhaland activists also torched the Pokhribing Panchayat office and vandalised a police outpost in Darjeeling's Pokhari on Sunday.
State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee strongly criticised the vandalism in the hills and claimed that "some foreign countries" close to GJM are fueling the ongoing agitation.
"What they are doing is undemocratic and condemnable. It is obvious that some foreign countries close to GJM are influencing the agitation," Chatterjee alleged.
Two columns of army were deployed in the region on Saturday after three persons died and a policeman sustained injuries in a sudden escalation of violence with pro-Gorkhaland activists engaging in widespread arson and vandalism targeting a railway station, police outposts and government offices.
Two prominent political parties in the hills - the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Gorkha National Liberation Front - claimed that one of the deceased, Tashi Bhutia was their active party member.
A police complaint lodged at Sonada police outpost by the victim's family alleged that Bhutia was shot by police while he was on his way to buy medicines.
The incident triggered a fresh flare up on Saturday as GJM and GNLF activists torched the Sonada railway station and a traffic police booth and attacked the Sonada police outpost. One policeman was injured.
Protest demonstrations and blockades were on at several places and the offices of the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Town and the Food and Supply Department were vandalised in Darjeeling.
The picturesque Darjeeling hills have been on the boil since last one month over a demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland with the GJM calling for an indefinite shutdown till the demand is fulfilled.