Accusing the police of fatally shooting a pro-Gorkhaland activist, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters today went on a rampage, attacking a police outpost and government offices in West Bengal's northern hills. Tasi Bhutia, 30, died during a sudden flare up of violence at Sonada in Darjeeling district late on Friday night in which a number of vehicles were vandalised allegedly by the Gorkhaland activists.
Claiming that Bhutia, whose body was found this morning with a bullet wound, was its active member, the pro-Gorkhaland Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) alleged that he died in police firing. "An innocent Gorkhaland supporter has been shot dead... We are deeply hurt and shaken to the core," said GNLF leader Neeraj Zimba.
Citing sources, PTI reported that two columns of the Army have been deployed in Darjeeling and Sonada. This morning, locals marched with Bhutia’s body, threw stones at the Sonada police station and police had to fire teargas to disperse crowds. Some locals claimed rubber bullets were also used.
"Two Army columns have been deployed - one in Darjeeling, one in Sonada, where one railway station was set afire," a Defence Ministry spokesman said here.
The GJM, which is spearheading the movement for a separate Gorkhaland state, on the other hand claimed that Bhutia was its supporter. "Yet another person has died in the hills," GJM Assistant General Secretary Binay Tamang said, as the indefinite shutdown to press for Gorkhaland entered the 24th day on Saturday.
A police complaint lodged at Sonada police outpost by the victim's family alleged that Bhutia was shot by the police while he was on his way to buy medicines. However, the police denied the allegation. Backing the police, state Tourism Minister Gautam Deb said, "The allegation that Bhutia died in police firing is completely false."
The incident witnessed a fresh flare up on Saturday as the GJM activists attacked the Sonada police outpost and set fire to a traffic booth, injuring a police personnel. Two government offices, including one belonging to the Food and Supply Department, were also vandalised in Darjeeling. Protest demonstrations and blockades were on at several places.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to people of Darjeeling ‘to not resort to violence and maintain peace’.
“Appealing to agitators in Darjeeling to withdraw shutdown, come for talks,” she said, days after all parties in Darjeeling hills decided to continue with the indefinite shutdown.