Darjeeing, July 8, 2017: Army was deployed with Darjeeling Hills once again on the boil on Saturday over the death of a person in Sonada. A person was also killed in the Darjeeling Chowk Bazar as violence spilled over from Sonada.
Sporadic incidents of violence, vandalizing and arson gripped Sonada and Darjeeling. The world heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway station at Sonada was also torched.
Incidentally on June 8 the Army had been deployed in Darjeeling owing to clashes between security forces and GJM supporters. However on June 19th the Army was withdrawn with the situation improving considerably.
Trouble started with the death of one Tashi Bhutia allegedly in CRPF firing on Friday night at Sonada, 16 km from Darjeeling town. According to Bhutia's family members Tashi had gone out at around 11:30 pm on Friday to get medicine for his elder brother who had fallen sick. Tashi had bumped into a CRPF contingent conducting raids and was allegedly shot by the CRPF at point blank range, claimed family members.
The family members have lodged a FIR at the Sondada police station. GNLF leaders including President Mann Ghising visited Tashi's house in the morning. "Tashi was our supporters. He had gone out to buy medicine but was shot down by the CRPF. We demand a judicial inquiry of the killing" stated Ghising.
At around 10:30pm, a rally accompanying the dead body decided to gherao the Sonada police station. As they started marching towards the police station, tear gas shells were burst by the police. Angry mobs went bout vandalizing the police station and the adjacent police barracks.
A large police contingent arrived from Darjeeling led by ADG Javed Shamim and Darjeeling SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi. The police appealed to the protestors to maintain restraint, peace and return home. However the mob continues with torching the waiting room and office of the DHR station at Sonada. A traffic police kiosk was adjacent to the station was also torched.
Police resorted to baton charge, bursting tear gas shells and even firing rubber bullets while the protestors rained stones on the police. The scuffle between the protestors and the police went on for many hours.
As Tashi's dead body reached Darjeeling, unrest broke out in the Hill town. A police vehicle was vandalised and overturned. GJM supporters and the police locked horns at Chowk Bazar. The Deputy Superintendent of Police office along with Food and Supply office at Chowk Bazar was vanadlised.
Here too police resorted to baton charge, burst tear gas shells and allegedly fired rubber bullets. One Suraj Sundas was allegedly killed in police firing in the Chowk Bazar. The office and residence of Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) located at Kakjhora was vandalised and torched. Traffic kiosks were set on fire in Darjeeling.
At around 4:30pm the army was called in. "We have called in the army" stated Joyoshi Das Gupta, District Magistrate, Darjeeling. The army has been deployed in Darjeeling and Sonada. Police personnel were also injured in Saturday's standoff.
"The State Government has unleashed a reign of terror in the Hills. Along Bhutia and Sundas, tow others have been killed in police firing. They are Asha Kumar and Sameer Subba. Many others are injured" claimed Binay Tamang, Assistant Secretary, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM.) The GJM has been demanding Centre's intervention in the Darjeeling impasse.
Late in the evening the forest office and staff quarters of the Neora Range in the Kalimpong district was torched along with a forest department vehicles.
"I am willing to sit in talks with Hill parties. Let us all work together. Let them allow the Government to take food supplies to the Hills. If the parties maintain peace we can hold dialogues" stated CM Mamata Banerjee in a press conference in Kolkata.
She appealed to the protestors to maintain restraint. "I have asked the police to maintain restraint. Government offices, vehicles and even fire engines have been torched yet the police have maintained restraint" claimed Banerjee.
Dubbing Bhutia's death as an "accident" Banerjee stated "We will conduct an inquiry into the matter. It was dark and we will have to find out what happened. I have heard that the police party had been attacked."
Banerjee took a hand at the Union Government stating "If they would have provided additional CRPF then the situation would not have come to this."
The GJM has negated the CM's appeals for talks. "We will not sit for talks with the State Government. We will sit in a dialogue with Centre only that too for Gorkhaland only" stated Binay Tamang.