Siliguri was taken hostage on Thursday by a riotous Aamra Bangali mob, which launched systematic attacks on another group, throwing stones and burning property. The police lathicharged the rioters and fired teargas shells, but only after the situation threatened to get out of hand.
The attack gave a communal twist to the Hills-plain divide in North Bengal. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) had relaxed its indefinite bandh in the Hills to let people stock up essentials, but Aamra Bangali had declared one of its own. The outfit, never known for its presence in the area, displayed a surprisingly strong support base and no fear of the police.
A worried Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee called an all-party meeting on June 17. Such was the tension that the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) expressed a willingness to attend. Both sides sought a middle path and relaxed their known stands. The CM, who had so far adamantly ruled out any discussion on Gorkhaland, now said, “I would like the discussion as broad-based as possible.” And GJM chief Bimal Gurung, who had refused to attend talks on any issue other than Gorkhaland, now said, “We are open to dialogue but it has to be unconditional and straight talk, no roundabout proposals.”
Meanwhile, the Centre has decided to place 10 companies (nearly 1,000 personnel) of central para-military forces — a mix of the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and the Sashastra Seema Bal — at the disposal of the state government.