Firing on our supporters unprovoked: GJM general secretary

Even as the shutdown continued in the Darjeeling hills on Thursday, stray incidents of violence heightened tension in The Dooars of North Bengal on the second day of the indefinite bandh called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) in protest against the police firing at Sipchu in Jalpaiguri district on Tuesday, in which two of its supporters were killed.

Meanwhile, reacting to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's appeal to shun violence and pursue the path of dialogue to maintain peace and order in the region, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri said that talks are welcome, but only if they are on the creation of a separate State of Gorkhaland.

“The problem can only be solved through talks. But let the government hold the talks on the demand for Gorkhaland,” he told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling.

He also refuted the Chief Minister's charge that the GJM had resorted to violence. “Ours is a peaceful movement and the police firing on our supporters was unprovoked,” Mr. Giri said.

The GJM leadership has rejected the proposal of an administrative arrangement for the region as an alternative to the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

As for the situation in the Darjeeling hills, the State government clarified that it had not withdrawn its request for the Army to be brought in there.

State Home Secretary G. D. Gautama pointed out that the Army could be utilised for confidence-building.

There was no need, he said, for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as demanded by the GJM leadership into the police firing at Sipchu. Nor had the State's Criminal Investigation Department been instructed to inquire into it, a magisterial inquiry already under way.

The police had to burst teargas shells at Madarihat in Jalpaiguri district to disperse the group of people, suspected to be GJM supporters, who set a lorry on fire after having set up a road block on National Highway 31 in support of the bandh call.

Trouble also broke out in Malbazar when miscreants hurled stones at the vehicle carrying the body of one of the victims of the Sipchu police firing to Kalimpong. The GJM condemned the attack.

“The bandh is continuing,” Mr. Giri said, reiterating the GJM's demand for a probe by the CBI into the firing.

Though there was tension in the Darjeeling hills, there was no report of any fresh violence. Personnel of the Border Security Force conducted flag-marches in certain sensitive areas.

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