Darjeeling, 08 Jun:

The West Bengal government had to call in the Army in Darjeeling on Thursday evening after Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters clashed with security forces. Violence erupted at around 3 p.m. when GJM supporters torched an effigy of the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee at Damber Chowk.

From morning the situation was fluid in Darjeeling with the GJM taking out rallies and a sit-in demonstration a short distance away from the Raj Bhawan where the State Cabinet meeting was taking place. The rallies arrived from Singmari, Darjeeling Railway Station and Batasia Loop at the Gorkha Ranga Mancha Bhawan and staged a sit-in demonstration.

The police had set up barricades below the St Andrew’s Church. While the State Cabinet meeting started at the Raj Bhawan at around 2 p.m. The 2-hour long sit-in demonstration started along with slogan shouting at around 12:30 p.m and continued till around 2:45 p.m.

Vehicles stopped plying and shops downed shutters in Darjeeling. Meanwhile the State Cabinet meeting followed by a press conference had finished at the same time. Following the cabinet meeting while the 28 Ministers were at the Raj Bhawan and the CM had returned to the Richmond Hill Government Guest House.

At around 3 p.m. the GJM supporters torched an effigy of the CM. Suddenly there were stones being pelted and amidst shouts a stampede ensued. Some people even tried to bring down the police barricade.

The police resorted to lathi charge and firing tear gas shells. Police vehicles parked on the Chowrasta road were torched while stones and bottles rained on the police personnel from the Hill above.

More than 45 security force personnel were injured in the clash. A police booth was set on fire. 10 police vehicles were torched along with a State Government bus.

Police personnel, CRPF including lady police personnel and officers were injured. Finally at around 5 p.m. the situation was diffused and the GJM supporters and leaders left the area.

GJM has claimed that 5 of their supporters were injured.

“We have called for a 12-hour bandh from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday. All education institutes will remain closed, vehicles will not ply and business establishments will remain closed. Emergency services have been exempted. Everything was going peacefully. TMC supporters threw stones at the sit-in demonstration leading to this,“ alleged Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha leader, Amrit Yonzon.

Mamata Banerjee sat in an administrative meeting with the Chief Secretary and the Home Secretary at Richmond Hill. In the evening the Ministers left Darjeeling while the CM will stay back.

It may be recalled that GJM had called a two-day bandh of educational institutions from 01 June and protest marches throughout the Hills from 04-08 June. The party is protesting against the alleged imposition of Bengali language in the Hills.