Friday, June 13, 2008

Army on alert to battle Siliguri unrest

The Army has been put on alert in Siliguri and neighbouring areas after violent clashes broke out between Gorkhas and non-Gorkhas during a 48-hour bandh called by the Amra Bangali with support from Jana Chetana, an outfit formed to oppose the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) demand for inclusion of Siliguri and areas of the Dooars in a separate state of Gorkhaland.

SSB border guards were later despatched in many parts of Siliguri town and on its outskirts.

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was asked by Left Front partner CPI to “hold talks without pre-conditions” with the GJM, called an all-party meeting, which is slated to be held on June 17 to discuss the Darjeeling crisis caused by the demand to form a separate state altogether.

Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who described the Siliguri incidents as “a matter of great anxiety”, has urged people to do nothing that will instigate any sort of violence.

In Delhi, the Union Home Ministry said it had moved nearly 1,000 Central paramilitary personnel to West Bengal to deal with the situation.

In Darjeeling, GJM chief Gurung slammed the ruling CPM for “trying to create another Nandigram of Siliguri and the foothills with its murderous cadres”.

Violence broke out in Champasari area of Siliguri, which has a mixed population of Gorkhas, Bengalis, Biharis and other sects. Traders hit by the GJM agitation joined an Amra Bangali procession which targeted Gorkhas.

The attacks were apparently started to teach the GJM a lesson for harassing Bengali tourists in the hills. The violence spread to areas like Pradhan Nagar, Sahidnagar, Bidhan Market and others in the town. In Bagdogra, a Gorkha vehicles were destroyed as well.

Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has asked the Prime Minister to intervene. “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should intervene to resolve the problems in the Darjeeling hills permanently so that the people of Sikkim can lead a peaceful life without being put to difficulty due to bandhs on the National Highway which is the state’s sole road link with the rest of the country,” Chamling said in a letter to the PM.