An assistant commandant of the India Reserve Battalion (IRB) was seriously injured when Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activists clashed with security forces in Darjeeling today.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters in Kolkata that the assistant commandant of the IRB 2nd battalion, Kiran Tamang, was critically injured during the violence.
He has been admitted to a hospital, she said. Earlier, IRB sources said Tamang had been killed in the clash.
GJM leader Binay Tamang claimed that two of his party workers were killed when the police opened fire at a GJM procession here.
ADG (law and order) Anuj Sharma, however, denied the allegation and said the police did not open fire. "It was the GJM activists who opened fire," he said.
Backing up ADG's statement, West Bengal Chief Minister also stated that the police has not fired
on the Morcha workers and supporters. She claimed that the GJM had connections to terrorists and firearms were collected and
distributed among the party workers to spread unrest just before the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) election.
"Five years you (GJM) enjoyed, now when elections are coming you start violence because you have lost credentials... What is happening is a deep rooted conspiracy. These arms were not collected in a day, they were collected over time," Mamata told reporters at a press briefing.
She said that the state government was open to talks with the GJM but warned that violence was no way to resolve the issue.
"We're ready to talk to them, but we cannot support violation of the Constitution," the chief minister said.
GJM supporters clashed with the security personnel in Darjeeling with protesters pelting stones and throwing bottles at jawans who retaliated by firing teargas shells. The protests were in retaliation to raids carried out at GJM leader Binay Tamang's house last night.
Vikram Rai, son of GJM MLA Amar Rai, was 'picked up' by the police from Darjeeling. Vikram is the in-charge of the GJM's media cell.
As the indefinite shutdown to demand a separate state entered its third day, police sources said that prohibitory orders were in force in the entire area and no one was allowed to take out processions.
GJM supporters violated the orders and took a procession.
When police stopped them, they hurled stones and bottles. Police fired teargas shells and used batons to disperse the crowd.
Meanwhile, shops, hotels and other business establishments, barring pharmacies, remained closed on the third day of the GJM-sponsored indefinite shutdown in the Darjeeling hills. The Army and paramilitary forces patrolled the streets to help restore calm as the total shutdown threw normal life into utter disarray. The scenic hills were largely shorn of tourists in the peak tourism season.
The police are on high alert after yesterday's violence and arson. Security forces are conducting route marches in various parts of the hills.
As Darjeeling resembled a garrison town, with security personnel in riot gear fanning across its length and breadth, the Centre yesterday decided to put on hold sending fresh troops to help restore normalcy as the state government has not yet submitted its report on the situation prevailing there.
The GJM had earlier called a shutdown of the offices of state government and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, which it controls, from Monday. It later called for an indefinite bandh was called after the police on Thursday raided the premises of GJM chief Bimal Gurung.
The turmoil, which was set off by the state government's announcement about introduction of compulsory teaching of Bengali language in schools, has begun impacting day-to-day life in the hills with schools, markets and even bank ATMs shut.
Hotels, restaurants and small eateries are closed and there are hardly any buses which could take stranded tourists, who had chosen to stay back ignoring the call by GJM leader Bimal Gurung to leave the hill station.
Meanwhile, the Centre yesterday decided to put on hold despatching additional paramilitary forces to Darjeeling as the state was yet to send a report on the ground situation four days after it was sought.
The 400 additional personnel, whom the home ministry had on Thursday decided to send to Darjeeling at the request of the state government, will not be despatched immediately, an official said.
GJM supremo Bimal Gurung, who has gone underground, asked the people in a video message to be prepared for the "final battle" for achieving Gorkhaland. "I urge the people to get prepared for the final battle as the time has come for a do or die fight if we want to achieve our dream of Gorkhaland," Gurung, whose party is an ally of the Centre's ruling NDA, said in the message from an undisclosed location.
Gurung's message came against the backdrop of the police raid at his premises at Singhmari and Patlebas in Darjeeling on Thursday following which the GJM, which controls the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), gave a call for indefinite shutdown in the hills.
Police had seized over 300 weapons, including pickaxes, bows and arrows, explosives, night vision binoculars and cash during yesterday's raids.