Tension continues in Darjeeling Hills over GJM-Adivasi clash

January 18th, 2009 - 12:40 am ICT by IANS  

Siliguri, Jan 17 (IANS) At least 10 people, including two senior police officers, were injured following a violent clash Saturday between activists of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP) in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district. “A huge contingent of police, lead by Special Inspector General (Jalpaiguri) Julfikar Hussain, resorted to a baton charge and fired teargas shells to quell the violence,” state Inspector General of Police (North Bengal) K.L Tamta said.

The incident took place at the Malbazar and Nagrakata areas when GJM activists tried to stop ABAVP supporters from work at a tea estate. The situation spun out of control as members of both groups went on the rampage and torched five houses.

Following the clash, the ABAVP supporters also called an indefinite shutdown in the plains from Saturday.

Police said the ABAVP supporters also damaged few vehicles and pelted stones at GJM activists. One of the GJM activists also suffered a serious injury after being struck by an arrow.

The situation was tense but under control, police said.

The two groups also fought a pitched battle Friday as ABAVP stopped a rally taken out by GJM activists at Malbazar sub-division of Jalpaiguri, about 40 km from here. The rally was taken out to press its demand for inclusion of Terai and Doars in the proposed Gorkhaland territory.

In protest, the Adivasis - who are against the GJM’s bid to include the plains areas in their agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state - put up road blockades at important points across Malbazar.

Meanwhile, Jalpaiguri divisional commissioner B.L. Meena also urged both the groups to maintain law and order in the area.

Sources said Meena also had telephonic conversation with leaders from both the warring groups and he requested them to restore peace in the area.

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

The DGHC was formed in 1988 through an agreement between the central and state governments and the GNLF after the hills had witnessed violence for about two years.

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