Braving rains, nearly 15,000 people took part in the last journey of slain Gorkha leader Madan Tamang raising slogans against the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and tearing its banners and posters in West Bengal's Darjeeling town Monday.
The GJM has been blamed for its alleged involvement in Tamang's killing, who was its political opponent and Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League chief. GJM also faced desertion from its ranks recently as several members of the central committee resigned.
Some intellectuals, who were a part of the GJM think tank, snapped ties with the outfit, which has been in the forefront of the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state to be carved out of parts of northern West Bengal.
Meanwhile, the state government has ordered a probe by the state police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) into the veteran leader's murder, said Special Inspector General of Police (Darjeeling Range) N Ramesh Babu.
A CID team headed by Special Inspector General of Police P K Dutta is already in Darjeeling district for preliminary investigation.
Thousands of people joined the funeral procession of Tamang, who was brutally stabbed to death in broad daylight in Darjeeling town Friday as he was preparing for a party meeting.
The flower-bedecked hearse meandered through the streets of the hill tourist resort Monday as the number of mourners swelled every minute amidst tight security arrangements made by police.
"Madan Tamang Amar Rahe" shouted the mourners who comprised not only his followers but also men and women cutting across political, social, economic and age barriers.
Angry men and women pulled down posters and banners of the GJM put up on the streets of the town as Darjeeling witnessed one of the largest funeral processions in its history.
Anticipating public fury against it, the GJM on Sunday called for a 12-hour business shutdown in Darjeeling town Monday to assuage people's feelings.
The body, brought out from Tamang's sprawling house on Gandhi Road in the morning, was first taken to the ABGL office near the club side where hundreds of party workers paid their last respects.
It was then carried to Chawkbazar, the hub of the town, as commoners, intellectuals and academicians laid wreaths on the body.
The body has now been taken to Tamang's ancestral house at Meghma in the Sukhya Pokhri police station jurisdiction for the last rites according to Buddhist customs.
The police have filed first information reports (FIRs) against 13 GJM leaders and activists, including party chief Bimal Gurung, his wife Asha Gurung and general secretary Roshan Giri, in connection with Tamang's murder near the Planters Club, but the party has vehemently denied its involvement.
Gorkha Janmukti Hotel Owners' Association secretary Sangey Bhutiya has already been arrested for his involvement in the attack on a hotel owned by the anti-GJM Democratic Front (DF) convenor Dawa Sherpa. Tamang was one of the founders of the recently floated DF which comprises various hill parties.
A day after GJM advisory council member Anmol Prasad resigned from the Morcha over allegations of its involvement in Tamang's murder, five prominent central committee members - C R Rai, Bhoujit Tamang, Palden Lama, Narayan Thapa and C K Subba - also quit the party Monday.
Three others who were members of the GJM think tank and regular participants in its parleys with the central and state governments - Tilak Dewan, L B Parihar and Amar Rai - also severed links with the party, rendering a severe setback to GJM.
Political observers said since 1986, when the movement demanding a Gorkhaland state out of parts of North Bengal began, the hills have never witnessed such intense of protests over a leader's death.