The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), an outfit demanding creation of a new state called Gorkhaland in north Bengal, claimed Saturday that one of its supporters was shot dead by the police.
Neeraj Zinpa, spokesperson of the GNLF, told the Indian Express that Tashi Bhutia (31), one of their cadre members, went out late Friday night around 11 pm to buy medicine for his brother who was suffering from a stomach ailment. When he did not return home even after several hours, his family inquired and came to know that he lay in a pool of blood at a road junction in Sonada, his place of residence near Darjeeling. His body was however taken away by the police.
Zinpa claims that the police fired 5 rounds on Bhutia which resulted in his death.
While the police have not officially made a statement on the matter, a senior officer told the Indian Express that Bhutia was found to be participating in a late-night road blockade where firing could have taken place. Tension prevailed around the residence of Bhutia with a cordon thrown in the area and security forces keeping a tight vigil. Although GNLF supporters went to meet the family, they were not allowed by the police. Vehicles are also barred in the area.
The statehood demand for Gorkhaland has been simmering over the last couple of months with violent protests and clashes in Darjeeling and neighbouring areas. The agitation is led primarily by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and its chief Bimal Gurung.
The demand, almost a century old, picked up steam earlier this year when the West Bengal government said that Bengali language would be made mandatory from class 1 in schools across the state, including the hills.
“The government suddenly imposes Bengali on us, making it mandatory in schools. What about our mother tongue, Nepali? We have asked the state government to clear its position on the language issue,” Roshan Giri, general secretary of GJM, earlier told the Indian Express.
(With inputs from Ravik Bhattacharya in Kolkata)