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Home guards attacked, police camp set afire in Darjeeling hills

Darjeeling, Aug 2, 2013, (IANS): 21:24 IST
Policemen outside the District Magistrate's office during the 72-hour bandh called by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha demanding a separate Gorkhaland in Darjeeling on Tuesday. PTI Photo
Two home guards sustained burns when alleged Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters set fire to a police camp besides burning down a forest bungalow as violence erupted in northern West Bengal's Darjeeling Hills since Thursday night, police said.

The three hill sub-divisions -- Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong -- were on the boil Friday with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha intensifying their movement demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland following the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance's endorsement of statehood to Telangana.

The GJM has called an indefinite shutdown in the hills from Saturday and a party delegation led by its general secretary Roshan Giri left for Delhi Friday to hold talks with union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and other central leaders on their demand.
"We have received reports of incidents of arson from Takdah Forest Guest House and a police outpost at Pokhriabong. Two vehicles have also been attacked," said Darjeeling District Magistrate Soumitra Mohan.

Police said some alleged GJM supporters attacked a police camp at Pokhriabong under Sukhiapokhri police station in Kurseong sub-division around 11:30 p.m. Thursday and torched it with two home guards still inside.

"One of the home guards is serious. He has been hospitalised. We have identified eight GJM supporters who are responsible for the incident. One person has been arrested," said district Superintendent of Police Kunal Agarwal.

A forest bungalow at Takdha under Rongli-Rangliyat police station of Darjeeling Sadar sub-division was also torched Thursday night. The bungalow had been inaugurated by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee last August and she stayed there during her visit to the hills in January.

Goons also tried to torch two police vehicles at Mangpoo of Kalimpong sub-division
However, Giri denied the involvement of his party activists in the violence.

"We are not responsible for these incidents. The parties opposed to us are trying to spark trouble," he said before departing for Delhi. He said the six-member delegation would also try to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.

Meanwhile, four companies of Central Reserve Police Force have already reached the hills, and another was on the way, said Agarwal. Three companies of state armed police are already posted in the hills.

There was a mad rush among the students and tourists to leave for the plains, following the Friday deadline set by the GJM.

As people queued outside the shops to stock provisions, prices have shot up. Rice and vegetables were being sold at a premium.

The GJM wants the news state to be carved out of parts of Darjeeling and its neighbouring Jalpaiguri district.

GJM supremo Bimal Gurung has already resigned as the chief executive of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) - an autonomous and elected hill development council.
The Gorkhaland movement has left many dead over the past two decades, besides affecting the region's economy based on tea, timber and tourism.

On July 18, 2011, a tripartite agreement was signed between the GJM and the state and central governments for setting up the GTA, armed with more powers than its predecessor, theDarjeelingGorkha Hill Council formed in the late 1980s.

The GJM now runs the GTA after sweeping its maiden elections in July last year.

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