Day 4 of Darjeeling shutdown: Interlocutor meets officials

Saturday, February 12, 2011

KOLKATA/DARJEELING - The central government-appointed interlocutor Vijay Madan visited West Bengal’s Darjeeling hills to assess the situation Saturday, day four of an indefinite shutdown the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) has called to protest its three supporters’ death in police firing.

“Interlocutor Lieutenant General (retired) Vijay Madan held meeting with the senior police officers and administrative officials of Darjeeling and its adjoining Jalpaiguri district,” said Darjeeling Police Superintendent D.P. Singh.

“The situation in Darjeeling Hills is under control, though there is tension in some areas of the three hilly sub-divisions - Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. Meanwhile, Nita Khawas, who was injured in Feb 8 (firing) incident, succumbed to her injuries this afternoon,” Singh told IANS over phone.

With the death of Nita, the toll in the police firing rose to three. Bimala Rai and Viki Lama died eaelier in the incident.

“We are holding rallies in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong sub-divisions. Our supporters would reach North Bengal Medical College (in Siliguri) to take Nita’s body and a procession will be held,” Harka Bahadur Chetri, spokesperson of the GJM, told IANS over phone.

He said Madan would also hold meetings with GJM president Bimal Gurung and senior leaders.

“He is yet to reach here to meet our president. We welcome his visit and are ready to discuss with him the Feb 8 incident,” said Chetri.

Shops, markets, business establishments and offices remained closed and vehicles were off the roads in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong sub-divisions.

GJM supporters, raising slogans that a Gorkhaland be carved out of Darjeeling district and parts of neighbouring Jalpaiguri, were noticed along the roads in the three hilly sub-divisions.

Life was normal in Dooars - the Himalayan foothills and floodplains in Jalpaiguri district - where death of two GJM activists in police firing Feb 8 triggered widespread violence.

Several tourist lodges, forest bungalows, fire service stations, a checkpost, two police outposts and other government offices were torched, and rifles and ammunition looted allegedly by GJM activists in Darjeeling hill sub-divisions and the Dooars between Feb 8 and Feb 9 morning.

Police have filed cases against five GJM leaders, including Gurung, for their alleged involvement in violence that started in Nagrakata in Jalpaiguri district before spreading in Darjeeling district.

Police opened fire Feb 8 following a clash with GJM supporters, who tried to violate orders that banned a gathering of five or more people at a time.

The clashes started when illegal camps set up by the GJM in the Shipchu area of a reserve forest were demolished by police.

The Bimal Gurung-led GJM has been leading the renewed Gorkhaland agitation for over two years by side-lining the Gorkha National Liberation Front, which had been spearheading the movement since the 1980s.

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