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Army called to curb violence in Darjeeling

The West Bengal CM asks the army to stage a flag march in Darjeeling's Siliguri district, rocked by violence over the issue of separate Gorkhaland.
By HT Correspondent | IANS, Kolkata
UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2008 05:27 PM IST

The West Bengal government on Thursday called the army to stage a flag march in Siliguri in Darjeeling district, rocked by violence between a group demanding a separate Gorkhaland in the region and some Bengali-speaking outfits opposed to it. Some tourists were injured in the violence.

Six platoons of army have been called so far to curb violence in Siliguri.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told reporters at State Secretariat Writers' Building in Kolkata: "I had a talk with the army officials and asked them to stage a flag march in Siliguri and its adjacent areas. The army will be deployed there as early as possible."

"I request all people, both in the hills and plains, to maintain peace and not to get involved in any sort of violence or political unrest," he said.

Police said a violent clash had broken out between Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) supporters and a local Bengal-speaking outfit, Amra Bangali (We are Bengalis), who are opposing the demand for a separate Gorkhaland.

"We had to lob four teargas shells to disperse the crowd. Nine police personnel were injured in the violence at Champasari near Siliguri. We have deployed a huge contingent of police. The Rapid Action Force are currently patrolling Siliguri town," state Inspector General (North Bengal) KL Tamta said.

A group of GJM activists on Thursday attacked a tourist vehicle in Jalpaiguri district while it was coming down from the hills with passengers. Eight tourists were injured in the attack.

The GJM, led by its president Bimal Gurung, has been spearheading a movement in the hills for a separate state, besides opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling district.

The central government in 2005 conferred the Sixth Schedule status on the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)-led Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) that ensures greater autonomy to the district's governing body.

The DGHC was formed in 1988 through an agreement between the central and state governments and the GNLF after the hills witnessed violence for about two years.

"We believe in democracy but I don't know why the state government and some local outfits, backed by the ruling Left Front in West Bengal, are trying to create trouble in the hills. They are beating our party supporters in Siligiri and Jalpaguri district," GJM general secretary Roshan Giri alleged.

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