DARJEELING: Army was redeployed in the Darjeeling hills on Saturday, ten days after it was withdrawn, following the eruption of fresh violence in Sonada where Gorkhaland supporters torched a police outpost and the waiting room of a Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway (Toy Train) station after two GJM activists were allegedly shot dead by police.
Tashi Bhutia (37) of Sonada, and Suraj Sundas (35) of Darjeeling were shot dead on Friday night and Saturday morning respectively, 21 days after alleged police firing claimed the lives of three Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters on June 17.
The Army deployed two columns comprising 100 personnel in Sonada and Darjeeling after members of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) started clashing with the police. (READ HERE)
Tahsi Bhutia was allegedly shot dead by police when he had gone to buy medicines in Sonada, GNLF spokesperson Neeraj Zimba claimed.
The police, however, denied the incident. "We don't have any report of police firing as of now. We are looking into the incident," a police officer said.
The GJM and other hill parties registered a case accusing the police of killing the youth.
"He was killed by the police without any reason. His body has bullet injuries. We demand that the policemen involved be punished," GJM leader Binay Tamang said.
The Central government on Friday had called for tripartite talks with the GJM activists and the West Bengal government to end the agitation.
The GJM activists and various NGOs took the initiative to supply food to people of the Darjeeling Hills who affected by a shortage in supply due to the indefinite strike.
Barring medical shops, all other shops, schools, and colleges were closed and Internet services remained suspended for the 21st day.
Meanwhile, West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee urged the political parties in the Darjeeling Hills to maintain peace and sit with the government for talks. "The government is ready for talks with the hill parties, but peace has to be ushered in. The government has shown enough restraint in the interest of the people of the hills. (READ HERE)
BJP seeks President's rule
A delegation of local BJP leaders met West Bengal Governor K N Tripathi on Saturday and demanded that the Centre immediately impose President's rule since the law and order situation in the state has "completely broken down".
"Today we met the governor and informed him about the grim situation in the state. The state government in collaboration with anti-national elements is directly responsible for the complete breakdown of the law and order situation. We have requested the governor to talk to the central government and send the recommendation for imposition of President's rule in the state," state BJP president Dilip Ghosh told reporters after the meeting.
Mamta-BJP tussle over army deployment
The chief minister accused New Delhi of "deliberate and total non-cooperation" in the matter and alleged that it has refused to send CRPF personnel, as demanded by the West Bengal government.
"The Darjeeling problem had erupted on June 8 and a month has passed since. Had the CRPF personnel been sent in time, this would not have happened," she said.
Banerjee claimed that since the state police did not have enough personnel to tackle the situation in Darjeeling, Centre's assistance was sought. She alleged that the BJP-led Central government had "perpetrated" the problems in Kashmir and was now "trying to destabilize" the hills.
However, responding to the chief minister's allegation, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh told reporters, "This is a complete lie. It was the central forces which helped her to come down from the hills when the agitation first started. The Centre has extended all help. In Baduria, the Centre wanted to send more forces but it was the state government which declined."
"The incident at Baduria in North 24 Parganas district is a clear example of appeasement politics. The houses and other property of Hindus were burnt and looted but the police were standing as a mute spectator," he added.
Meanwhile, dismissing the chief minister's claim, the Union Home Ministry said that the West Bengal government had sent back the four companies of paramilitary troops rushed in by the Centre.
The ministry claimed that in addition to the four companies of Border Security Force (BSF) troops stationed in Basirhat, the central government dispatched four companies of the paramilitary force on Thursday. But the state government had sent them back, the ministry alleged.
With regard to the situation in Darjeeling, a ministry official said, “Eleven companies of Central forces were deployed, including 100 women personnel. But the state Government wants to withdraw the women personnel. West Bengal Government’s own Eastern Frontier Rifles and the State Armed Police battalions are there in Darjeeling. Why are they (West Bengal Government) not deploying them instead of blaming Centre?” a senior Home Ministry official added.
Normalcy returns to Baduria-Basirhart
As things heated up in Darjeeling, normalcy returned to the riot-hit Baduria-Basirhart of the North 24 Parganas of the state where a Facebook post triggered a communal clash on July 5.
Shops and markets reopened and vehicles started plying the roads.
No untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the district since Friday, a senior home department official said.
Police personnel and paramilitary forces would remain in place, the official said.
"We'll keep the forces deployed till we are sure about the situation. We are keeping a close watch on everything," he said.
Internet services, however, remained suspended. The government will set up a judicial panel to look into the "communal" clashes. "We have decided to initiate a judicial probe into the Baduria and Basirhat riots. We want to see who were involved in them and the government will provide every input to the judicial commission. Let there be an impartial probe," chief minister Mamata Banerjee told journalists in Kolkata.
BJP MPs stopped en-route to Basirhat
A three-member BJP team comprising members of parliament (MP) Meenakshi Lekhi, Om Mathur and Satyapal Singh was stopped from visiting the riot-hit Basirhat on Saturday. The three leaders found were detained by police.
Lekhi asked the police if the situation was under control in Basirhat, as claimed by the state government, why were they not allowed to go there.
"We are MPs and only we three will go there. You accompany us," she told the policemen.
However, the police refused to let them proceed.