Indefinite curfew was imposed and shoot-at-sight orders issued in Siliguri town following a violent communal flare-up during a rally on Friday. The army and BSF had to be called out to control the situation. The rally was protesting against the reported derogatory remarks made by a radio jockey against Gorkhas (Nepalis) soon after Prashant Tamant was chosen Indian Idol.
Trouble began around 11 am when the rally organised by Nepalis was crossing Siliguri Sadar Hospital. It had almost passed the hospital when some protestors had an argument with a patient’s attendants and beat up the latter. This invited local reaction and a few Nepali-speaking people were beaten up. Soon, both sides were pelting stones. Many, including Siliguri ASP Rajesh Yadav, were injured.
As the violence escalated, more policemen were rushed in. The mob torched scores of vehicles. Police carted off hundreds of protestors and used 30 rounds of tear gas shells. When nothing helped, police opened seven rounds of fire in which two people were reportedly injured. North Bengal Police IG RJS Nalwa and Darjeeling SP Rajesh Subarno monitored the situation from the spot. Finally, the army was called in around 6 pm.
Darjeeling DM Rajesh Pandey told reporters that the situation was beyond control and curfew had been imposed in Siliguri for an indefinite period. Pandey and Nalwa said the army and the BSF have been called in.
Late night reports said mobs were pelting stones at army, BSF and police personnel. This led authorities to issue shoot-at-sight orders. There are also reports of communal tension.
Idol winner Tamant has appealed for peace. “I urge you all to maintain calm, otherwise I may not be able to concentrate in my career,” Tamang said in an appeal on a private TV channel in Bengali and Nepali.