Violence erupted in Darjeeling town following an incident of alleged molestation of a 16 year old student by a Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel. Police had to fire in the air along with lath charge to disperse the unruly mob that pelted stones, threw bottles and even torched a North Bengal
State Transport (NBSTC) bus at the Darjeeling Motor Stand. Another NBSTC Bus was also torched at Kalimpong.
There were attempts to torch the Singamari Police Town Outpost at around 7:30pm. The Students Union affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has called for a 12 hour bandh on Sunday. Jyoti Rai, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) member who is also a GJM Central Committee member was detained by Police.
With news of the molestation the Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha (students wing affiliated to the GJM) set up a roadblock at the Chowk Bazar- the main market square in Darjeeling. Shops downed shutter. Soon the protests took the shape of a gherao at the Darjeeling Sadar Thana (despite the RAF personnel already being arrested.)
The slogan shouting and demonstration soon turned violent with the mob vandalizing a police van parked outside the police station and also attempting to torch it. Police resorted to lath charge to disperse the mob. The mob in turn pelted stones and hurled bottles at the security forces. Police then fired three rounds in the air.
Amidst the stand off a NBSTC Bus parked at the Motor Stand was torched amidst the brick batting. A large police and RAF contingent led by Kunal Agarwal, Superintendent of Police, Darjeeling managed to chase away the mob.
At around 7:30pm a mob tried to torch the Police Outpost at Singamari on the fringes of the Darjeeling town. A police and CRPF contingent intervened thereby preventing the outpost from being torched, A few rounds were fired in the air at the Singmari outpost to disperse the mob.
“4 companies of Shashastra Suraksha Bal had been moved out of the Hills today but will be recalled owing to the present disturbances. 5 companies of CRPF will stay” stated Agarwal. Raids continued throughout the night with more than 25 arrests.
“We had immediately arrested the accused RAF personnel. The parents of the victim also met me and expressed satisfaction at the police action. Yet there were acts of vandalism and arson. Anyone disturbing peace will be taken to task” added Agarwal.
Following the molestation incident the GJM had faxed a letter to the Union Home Minister demanding the withdrawal of Paramilitary forces from the Hills. “People have lost faith in the State Government. The Government is trying to crush the rights of the people. Exemplary punishment should be meted out to the RAF personnel” stated Roshan Giri, GJM General Secretary.
Incidentally at around 9:30am on Saturday a 16 year old girl, studying in class 11 while returning back from school to her residence located in a forest village around 18km from Darjeeling town was allegedly stopped by a RAF personnel on a lonely stretch of the road which passes through a jungle. Arun Pramanik, the RAF personnel then allegedly molested the girl.
The girl crying for help managed to free herself from Parmanik’s clutches and started running when she chanced upon a group of villagers. “The girl was crying frantically and she was being chased by a man in a blue track suit. We immediately caught hold of him and after hearing what had happened we handed him over to the Jorebunglow Police Station” stated Smrity Subba, one of the villagers.
The victim in great trauma was later taken to the Darjeeling Sadar Hospital where she has been admitted. 28 year old Pramanik was immediately arrested by the police. He has been charged under Sections 341 (wrongful restraint) and 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the IPC.
“Pramanik from the Barrackpore State Arm Police camp near Kolkata had arrived in Darjeeling along with the RAF in July. He was stationed at the Ghoom Bhanjyang Check Post. On Sunday he will be produced at the Darjeeling Court” stated Agarwal.
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