Two die, 20 injured in Gorkhaland clash in West Bengal

February 8th, 2009 - 11:36 am ICT by IANS  

Siliguri, Feb 7 (IANS) Two people were killed and 20 injured Saturday in widespread violence during a 24-hour shutdown over the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state in West Bengal hills, the police said.
The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) - spearheading the demand for a separate state - had called the shutdown in Terai and Dooars regions of Jalpaiguri district and the Darjeeling hills demanding that they be allowed to hold political meetings.

“GJM activists forcibly closed a furniture shop at Chamurchi area of Dooars and set all furniture on fire Saturday. This led to a clash between GJM and anti-GJM supporters,” state police inspector general (North Bengal) K.L. Tamta said.

“Two persons - a GJM activist and a businessman - were killed in the clash. At least 20 have been injured. About 30 houses have been set ablaze,” Tamta said.

Another clash erupted between GJM supporters and their rivals at Debidanga area of Siliguri sub-division in Darjeeling district.

“Nine were injured (in Siliguri). We have detained 13 people for the incident,” Tamta said.

GJM activists at Gorubathan area of Kalimpong sub-division surrounded a police station and threw stones at the building demanding arrest of those who killed their co-worker.

“They (GJM activists) gheraoed (blockaded) the Gorubathan police station and damaged police vehicles demanding immediate arrest of the culprits,” Tamta said.

GJM spokesperson Benoy Tamang alleged that rival Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) provoked people to attack them.

“It’s a joint conspiracy of the CPI-M and state police to force us to stop our movement. They provoked the locals and the tribals against us and as a result one of our co-workers was killed and at least 20 GJM houses were burnt down,” Tamang said.

The police fired teargas. Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel were deployed in the area.

“We have also asked for paramilitary force to help us maintain law and order in the area,” Tamta said.

The GJM, led by Bimal Gurung, has been leading a movement in the hills for a separate state, besides opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling district.

The central government in 2005 conferred the Sixth Schedule status on the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)-led Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), ensuring greater autonomy to the governing body.

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