CLASHES BROKE out between GJM workers and police in Kalimpong district on Wednesday, injuring six cops and three Morcha supporters, as the indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling entered its 21st day. Trouble arose when a rally by the GJM’s youth wing was crossing the local Trinamool office at 10th Mile area in the town around noon, during which some agitators torched a vacant dilapidated building where the TMC office is located. The Trinamool office is on the fourth floor of the building. “Some agitators set fire to the ground floor of the building. There was no one inside at that time. The building mostly remains vacant,” an eyewitness told The Indian Express. Police and locals tried to douse the flames.
“The atmosphere became tense. Some protesters started pelting stones. Then the police retaliated with tear gas,” said the eyewitness. Following this, the protesters became more agitated and stone-pelting increased. Security personnel, including policemen from the 10th battalion of the state armed police forces, CRPF, SSB, RAF and the local police, retaliated with rubber bullets. The mob then set fire to the office of the North Bengal State Transport Corporation, popularly known as the taxi stand in the area.
Following this, police fired six rounds in the air and then took shelter at the local police station in Thanadara. Morcha supporters then blocked all roads and continued their agitation. Eyewitnesses said that when a policeman was attacked by the agitators, locals in the area rescued him from the mob. The two-and-a-half-hour agitation finally ended at around 2.30 pm, when heavy rains lashed Kalimpong, forcing the agitators to retreat.
Unconfirmed sources said that the three injured Morcha supporters were taken to a hospital in Sikkim, as the GJM feared their arrests. The injured policemen were taken to the Kalimpong district hospital. Kalimpong, which was earlier a sub-division of Darjeeling, was declared a full-fledged district in February. It is about 55 kms from Darjeeling.
Meanwhile, all eyes are now focused on an all-party meeting scheduled on Thursday in Darjeeling to decide the next course of action, even as dwindling food supply has put Hill residents in a precarious situation, with the prospect of a severe food shortage staring at them. The GJM and other Hill parties remained tight-lipped about Thursday’s meeting, PTI reported. In Kalimgpong, Morcha supporters took out a rally at Chowk Bazar, carrying the traditional ‘khukri’ and shouting slogans in support of a separate Gorkhaland state. While Internet services remained suspended for the 18th consecutive day, the police and security forces patrolled the streets of the Hills and kept a tight vigil at the entry and exit routes. Except pharmacy, all other shops, restaurants, hotels, schools and colleges remained closed. Boarding schools also extended their vacation because of the unrest.