ALSO READDarjeeling: GJM chief calls for shutdown after cops seize arms from office Darjeeling bandh: Army steps in to restore peace as GJM protests intensify GJM protest: Rallies for separate state, police on high alert in Darjeeling GJM activists set ablaze railway, police station after raid on chief's home
There were fresh clashes in Darjeeling on Saturday with Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) protesters pelting stones and throwing bottles at security personnel who retaliated by firing teargas shells. As the indefinite shutdown to demand a separate state entered its third day, police sources said that prohibitory orders were in force in the entire area and no one was allowed to take out processions. GJM supporters violated the orders and took a procession.
When police stopped them, they hurled stones and bottles. Police fired teargas shells and used batons to disperse the crowd. The northern West Bengal hills continued to simmer on Saturday as the GJM-sponsored indefinite shutdown entered its sixth day with police allegedly raiding and vandalising the residence of party assistant general secretary Binay Tamang. At around 3 a.m., on Saturday, Tamang claimed his house was "raided and vandalised by the police and the Trinamool Congress cadres" in the same manner as they had raided party chief Bimal Gurung's house in Darjeeling district two days ago. Tamang also claimed police arrested Vikram Rai, journalist, and son of MLA Amar Rai. Rai said his son has no political affiliations. At Pankhabari, the picturesque tea gardens-lined but notoriously narrow road from Bagdogra airport to Kurseong, GJM supporters allegedly attacked a local Trinamool activist's residence. A PWD (public works department) office at Bijonbari, was reportedly set on fire by GJM supporters. The ongoing agitation has crippled tourism. According to a railway official, the toy-train services of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) has been suspended in view of the strike for the safety of passengers and staffs. The "Queen of the Hills" virtually turned into a battlefield as moves and counter moves were brought on by supporters of Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress and dominant hill party, the GJM. The GJM announced the strike from Monday in the hills encompassing Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and the Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas covering stretches of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar district) protesting against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's decision to make Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools. The strike was called even as the Chief Minister assured that the new rule would not be imposed in the hill districts.