KOLKATA: The agitation in the Darjeeling hills for a separate state of Gorkhaland continued as a person died and at least eight got injured on Tuesday in clashes between Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the Mirik town of Darjeeling district.
The deceased has been identified as Ashish Tamang (36), a resident of Magargunj village near Mirik. While GJM claimed that Ashish died in police firing, West Bengal administration maintained that he died in political clashes between TMC and GJM.
Speaking to media on Tuesday morning, GJM spokesperson Binay Tamang said, “Ashish was killed in police firing during clashes between GJM and TMC activists on Monday night. Besides, seven TMC supporters and one of our men are injured.”
He added: “Ashish died when police opened fire at our activists near Mirik market,” the GJM spokesperson added. TMC formed the municipal board in Mirik after civic polls in May.
Sources revealed that clashes erupted between GJM and TMC supporters when the former took out a rally at ward number 7 in Mirik on Monday night. During the rally, TMC supporter Dhanraj Tamang was allegedly beaten up by GJM supporters after which GJM and TMC supporters engaged in fights with khukuris (Nepalese dagger). Binay Tamang claimed that GJM supporters were intimidated by TMC supporters.
Situation turned worse when police picked up a few GJM supporters. A police source in Mirik police station said that GJM supporters then set fire to two police vehicles against the detentions.
The police had to resort to firing tear gas shells and lathi-charge to control the situation. More CRPF forces have been deployed in the town.
On the other hand, North Bengal development minister Goutam Deb claimed that outsiders were behind the clashes in Mirik. “Police is not opening fire on any protesters in the hills.
The GJM died in clashes with TMC supporters. One of our injured cadres is serious and has been shifted to Siliguri.
The GJM supporters were brought from Sukhiapokhri to create problems in Mirik,” he said. With the latest death, a total of eight Gorkhaland supporters have died as the indefinite strike called by pro-Gorkhaland leaders in the hills entered its 34th day on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a panchayat office was gutted in Kalimpong district even as an all-party meeting of Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) was underway in Kalimpong town since 11 am on Tuesday morning.
A resolution on allegations of foreign hand in the statehood movement is likely to be taken in the meeting.