In renewed Gorkhaland agitation, two supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) were killed on Tuesday as police fired on a crowd in Jalpaiguri district.
This was the first case of police firing since the Gorkhaland movement resumed more than two years ago in October 2007 under the leadership of the GJM, which had wrested its present role from the Gorkha National Liberation Front.
The GJM said that three of its supporters who sustained bullet injuries were very critical.
After Tuesday's firing, the entire Darjeeling hills saw a shutdown and Gorkhaland supporters in the Kalimpong sub-division attacked government properties and set afire public buses.
Trouble started after 11 am when the joint forces of West Bengal police, the India Reserve Battalion and the CRPF reached Sipchu, 550 km north of Kolkata, where the GJM was organising a hunger strike, and asked the agitators to disperse. Prohibitory orders on assembling were in force in the area.
Sub-divisional officer (Malbazar) Debjani Bhattacharya confirmed the death of the two GJM supporters. She said that five policemen were injured, one of them seriously.
GJM assistant secretary Binay Tamang said, "Police and the CRPF resorted to lathicharge, opened tear gas shells and fired at least 50 rounds of bullets on peaceful GJM supporters."
The incident is significant because it has the potential of derailing the talks between the Centre, the state government and the GJM on the course of the proposed Gorkhaland.