Violence marked the indefinite strike called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) and the John Barla-led faction of tribals today in the Dooars region in Jalpaiguri over the governments refusal to allow a joint rally and meeting in the districts Nagrakata area that was to be addressed by GJM president Bimal Gurung.
There were unconfirmed reports about police resorting to firing to bring the situation under control.
In Oodlabari and Banarhat,several people were injured and police lobbed teargas shells following clashes between supporters and opponents of the shutdown.
According to a senior police official,around 50 shops and several vehicles in Banarhat,Oodlabari and Nagrakata areas were torched. While there were reports that the police resorted to firing to control the mob in Banarhat,the latter denied the same.
Significantly,the strike called by the John Barla-led faction did not evoke much response with most of the shops and offices remaining open. Trouble started when pro-bandh supporters tried to shut down the shops forcefully,leading to clashes with the group opposed to the bandh. Besides the police,para-military forces were deployed in the area.
Vehicular movement on national highways (NH) in areas under Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts,especially NH 31 – the gateway to the northeastern states – was negligible. Train movement in the Dooars-Terai section was also affected,with many long-distance trains either being cancelled or diverted. Several trains were running well behind schedule. Shutdown supporters in some places put up road blocks,which were later removed by the police.
More than 60 arrests were made from Siliguri and adjoining areas of Darjeeling district. In Naxalbari,several buses were damaged and a few vehicles were set ablaze by those enforcing the shutdown.
SP,Jalpaiguri,Sugata Sen said,The situation is under control. We are estimating the extent of damage in the area.
Barla,meanwhile,said,We had never resorted to violence in these last months. We have held rallies and meetings peacefully. But we were deceived by the government as it had taken away the right of holding meetings from us. Moreover,the other faction who are opposing the inclusion of the mouzas into the GTA started the violence first.
Barla represents a small faction of tribals who are supporting the GJMs demand for inclusion of Dooars and Terai territory into the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA). But a larger faction of tribals – the Adivasi Vikas Parishad is against inclusion of any territory into the GTA.
Birsa Tirkey of Adivasi Vikash Parishad said,The people of Terai and Dooars region do not want their land to be included into GTA. That is why they spontaneously opposed the bandh call and tried to maintain normal life in the area. But they were attacked by the bandh supporters in front of the police.
Suryakanta Mishra,leader of the opposition,also appealed for peace in the area and urged the government to hold a meeting with all the stakeholders of the area. We had declared that the GTA agreement will open a Pandoras box and it will spark fresh trouble. But the government did not pay any heed to us. We appeal them to hold meetings on the issue with all stake holders of the area.
Biman Bose,Left Front Chairman said: The Trinamool Congress used the GJM to satisfy narrow political interests which is resulting in the trouble in the area. It has to be addressed immediately.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines