GJM relaxes strike for Tuesday in view of problems faced by public

The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) today announced a 24-hour relaxation in the ongoing general strike called by it in the hills tomorrow.

The indefinite agitation, which entered the sixth day today, has been called to protest the February 8 Sipchu police firing which claimed three lives.

"Keeping in mind the problems faced by the public, we have decided to suspend the agitation for a day on Tuesday," GJM president Bimal Gurung told a press conference here.

Mr Gurung also said that the judicial department would be beyond the purview of the agitation when it resumes on Wednesday.

To a question on the proposed visit by the Election Commission's team to the hills, he said, "We will welcome the team."

Meanwhile, life remained paralysed in the hills as the indefinite shutdown entered the sixth day. Shutters were down, markets and educational institutions remained closed and vehicles stayed off the roads.

There was, however, no report of any untoward incident, police said.

The GJM had withdrawn the "bandh" from the Dooars and Terai areas on February 12 facilitating return of normalcy. However, supporters of the organisation had begun an indefinite hunger strike there to press for their demand for a separate "Gorkhaland".

Incidentally, the Centre had sent an interlocutor to meet the GJM leadership to find ways to ease the tension prevailing in the trouble-torn areas in the hills.


Flag march by BSF in Darjeeling as GJM begins bandh

Two companies of the Border Security Force (BSF) staged a flag march in West Bengal's trouble-torn hills of Darjeeling and Dooars today as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) began an indefinite general strike to protest yesterday's killing of its two supporters in police firing.

Darjeeling District Magistrate Mohan K Gandhi said the two companies of BSF were deployed with immediate effect and options of deployment of the Army were still being deliberated at the highest level.

He said he had sought for Army deployment last night after the GJM supporters torched several government properties like building, vehicles and police outposts in the Dooars and Terai regions.

"The situation is improving. Still, the option of deployment of Army is being deliberated at the top level," Mr Gandhi said.

The troops, however, are being told to keep a close watch on the situation by the Union Home ministry following requests from the West Bengal government for deployment of Army in Dooars, Terai and hills of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts.

The GJM supporters last night allegedly indulged in arson and rampages on the government property in protest against police firing at Sipchu in the Dooars in which two GJM activists, including a woman, died.

Mr Gandhi said, "We have deployed two companies of BSF. The situation is getting better."

Altogether six companies of para-military forces - six of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and 2 of the BSF- are being deployed in the hills to deal with the situation.

Police said they resorted to firing after the GJM supporters, in defiance of prohibitory orders, assembled and stabbed a woman constable.

The GJM-sponsored "bandh" evoked a huge response in the hills and Dooars.

GJM general secretary Roshan Giri claimed that the police fired on a non-violent protest meeting in the Dooars.


GJM calls for indefinite bandh in hills

The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) today called for a general strike in Terai, Dooars and three hill sub-divisions - Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling - from tomorrow for an indefinite period to protest the killing of their supporters in police firing.

GJM assistant general secretary Binoy Tamang said, "We demand that a judicial inquiry be launched and the policemen involved in the killing of two GJM supporters be arrested."

Mr Tamang also claimed that three GJM supporters were also missing and seven others suffered serious injuries.

District Magistrate (Jalpaiguri) Bandana Yadav confirmed that two GJM supporters were killed in police firing and 12 security personnel were injured when the lawkeepers resorted to firing to disperse the GJM activists who had turned violent.

The incident took place when about 2,500 to 3,000 GJM supporters, including a large number of women, violated prohibitory orders at Sibchu under Nagrakata Police Station of Jalpaiguri district in the foothills, trying to sneak into the Dooars area.

"We had no objection when they were organising a relay hunger-strike. However, they were trying to sneak into Dooars by taking out a procession, violating prohibitory orders. Local MLA (Kalchini) Willson Champramary had been arrested on charges of violating the prohibitory orders and attacking security personnel," Ms Yadav added.

Two companies of Central para-military forces had been sought to maintain law and order in the trouble-torn areas, she said, adding an alert had been sounded in North Bengal following the flare-up of violence.

Meanwhile, GJM supporeters set afire a police camp at Pedong and a forest office bungalow in Kalimpong sub-division, Additional Superintendent of Police J Dorji said.


Additional forces sent to North Bengal after fresh violence

As North Bengal was rocked by fresh violence, the West Bengal Government today decided to send additional forces to the trouble-torn area where two Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) supporters were killed in police firing and several lawkeepers injured in clashes.

"Additional forces are being sent. If necessary, further reinforcement will be engaged," Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Surajit Kar Purakayastha said. He, however, said the situation was now under control.

Darjeeling is already under the security control of Central Reserve Police Force jawans and state armed police.

Mr Kar Purakayastha said a female homeguard was critically injured in the attack by GJM supporters, while several other policemen, including the SDPO of Jalpaiguri, were wounded.

The incident, he said, took place when about 2,500 to 3,000 GJM supporters, including a large number of women, violated prohibitory orders at Sibchu under Nagrakata Police Station of Jalpaiguri district in the foothills, trying to sneak into the Dooars area.

"As police tried to resist them, the Morcha supporters attacked.

Police tried to disperse them first by making lathicharge and lobbing tear-gas shells. When the measures proved futile, they fired seven rounds in which two persons were killed. One of the deceased is a woman," the ADG said.

The incident immediately prompted Morcha supporters to retalitate by setting afire the district judge's car in Darjeeling. They also set aflame several bungalows of the forest department in Kurseong and NBST buses in Kalimpong.

Road bloackades were reported in Birpara and Nimchu, both known GJM strongholds in the foothills.


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