Incident sparks off disturbances in Darjeeling hills; two government buses torched

Two persons, including a woman, were killed and several others, among them security personnel, injured when the police, under attack, fired at a large group of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) supporters while preventing them from violating prohibitory orders at Sipchu in Jalpaiguri district on Tuesday.

The incident sparked off disturbances in the adjoining Darjeeling hills, where GJM supporters went on the rampage, setting fire to government vehicles including two state buses, a police van and an outpost as well as some forest bungalows and rest houses.

The State administration has sought Army deployment in the hills to help restore normality.

Alleging that the firing at Sipchu, in the Dooars, was “totally unprovoked,” the GJM leadership has called a bandh from Wednesday in the Darjeeling hills and the Terai and Dooars in the north Bengal plains.

But Additional Director-General (Law and Order) Surojit Kar Purkayastha said the police had to resort to seven rounds of firing as a baton charge and bursting of teargas shells failed to disperse a group of nearly 3,000 GJM supporters, including several women, who had violated orders promulgated under Section 144 Cr. PC at 11.45 a.m.

A woman constable was seriously injured, having been slashed with a khukri, the police official said here.

Wilson Champamari, GJM-backed Independent MLA from Kalchini in Jalpaiguri district, has been arrested in connection with the violence.

A company of the State Armed Police was sent to the Dooars, where one of the four companies of the Central police forces had already been deployed.

Additional forces would be moved if required, Mr Purkayastha said.

Holding the GJM responsible for the disturbances, Left Front Committee chairman Biman Bose condemned its “destructive movement.” Tension had been brewing in the areas in the vicinity of the border between Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts over the past weeks ever since the GJM announced its plans to take out a padayatra led by its president Bimal Gurung to the Dooars region.

Fearing that the programme could result in ethnic tensions in Jalpaiguri, authorities imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 Cr. PC in certain parts of the Dooars.