Friday, June 13, 2008

Army on a standby in Siliguri

Tension grips Darjeeling and Siliguri as clashes continue between GJMM supporters and anti-Gorkhaland

Army is on standby and Section 144 clamped in Siliguri in West Bengal as three organizations called a total bandh opposing the demand for creation of a separate Gorkhaland state.
Earlier, Police lathicharged and tear-gassed on protesters who went on a rampage stopping traffic, throwing stones and burning tyres. Some tourists were also injured in the clashes.
In the wake of fresh tension arising out of clashes between supporters of Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha’s (GJMM) and anti-Gorkhaland factions in Siliguri and parts of Darjeeling, the West Bengal Government today called in the Army in Siliguri and adjacent areas.
According to reports, the Home Ministry has dispatched ten companies (about 1,000 personnel) of BSF, CRPF and SSB to West Bengal. The reinforcement was meant to deal with the situation in violence-hit North Bengal. The additional forces had been sent following a request from the West Bengal government.
To ease tension following the clashes, personnel of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) staged flag march in Siliguri.
The deployment of Army came after Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee discussed the situation in Siliguri and adjacent areas with Army authorities. The CM also appealed for maintaining peace and amity.
Further, he has called an all-party meeting on June 17 to discuss the Darjeeling crisis.
The development came after normal life was hit in Siliguri today as it observed a near total bandh called by three organisations opposing the demand for creation of a separate Gorkha state.
The two-day parallel bandh, called by Amra Bangali, Banglabhasha Bachao Samiti and Jana Jagaran Morcha, in Siliguri and Dooars in protest against the indefinite bandh called by the GJMM, initially began on a dull note, but picked up as the day progressed with all shops and business establishments remaining shut and vehicles off the roads.
Some educational institutions cancelled their scheduled examinations and majority of the banks remained closed.
GJMM press secretary Benoy Tamang alleged that the bandh at Siliguri and Dooars was purposely called to restrict movement of vehicles carrying food and essentials to Darjeeling.
Inspector General of Police (North Bengal), KL Tamta told reporters that the allegation of GJMM was not correct. Vehicles were very much moving towards the hills and sufficient security forces were deployed at all vulnerable points, particularly the entry points to the hills.
There was no repot of any major untoward incident either in Siliguri or Dooars, the IGP said.
The picture, however, was opposite in the hills after the GJMM announced a 60-hour breather in their indefinite bandh which began at 3 pm yesterday. Police said that there was no untoward incident reported in the hills.
On the other hands, the GJMM today said that there was no question of giving up its demand for Gorkhaland.
“We are yet to receive any invitation for the all party meeting and we will take a decision as and when it comes,” GJMM president Bimal Gurung told reporters from Darjeeling.
Meanwhile, the WB Governor has urged for calm in the region. “It is essential that leaders of the public opinion and civil society strive to maintain communal harmony, even as the administration performs its duties for maintaining law and order,” the West Bengal Governor said in a statement.