DARJEELING: Violence returned to the Hills on Wednesday morning after a brief lull, a day ahead of the Hills party meeting in Kalimpong’s Pedong, when miscreants lobbed a petrol bomb at the Trinamool party office on the first floor of the Kalimpong Supermarket at 10th Mile. The bomb missed the target and hit a closed liquor shop on the ground floor, setting it on fire. Three fire engines and police took 45 minutes to put out the flames.
GJM did not take any responsibility for the incident. The arson came close on the heels of the GJM rally from Dambar Chowk at 11.30am. The tension led to clashes between GJM supporters and the police at Kalimpong, leaving three GJM supporters and five police personnel injured. The clash began after policemen placed barricades in front of the GJM rally. GJM supporters retaliated, prompting the cops to burst teargas shells and fire rubber bullets at the mob.
GJM Kalimpong district president R B Bhujel, however, claimed police had opened fire on the democratic rally, in which three party supporters sustained critical injuries. The three have been identified as Bikram Tamang, who received a head injury, Tikaram Bhujel, who got hit on the leg and P D Tamang, a former Army man. “Of the three injured, one was hit by a live bullet. It is there for everybody to see,” the GJM Kalimpong president said.
“It was a democratic youth rally of our party. The rally had already reached Dambar Chowk and our leaders were giving speeches when we heard that some miscreants had tried to set fire to the TMC office at 10th Mile. A youth was beaten by the police for no fault and subsequently, a curious crowd gathered and a clash started suddenly,” Bhujel said.
According to bystanders, things went out of hand when GJM supporters and police engaged in a verbal exchange, the contents of which could not be ascertained. All of a sudden, the exchange of words turned into a full-fledged battle. Some in the crowd started pelting stones at the police, who retaliated by firing teargas shells and blanks, which lasted for an hour.
Another clash broke out at the bus stand in the main town, where agitators torched the ticket counter of the North Bengal State Transport Corporation. Police again fired teargas shells and blanks in the air to disperse the stone-pelting mob. Police claimed five personnel were injured in the clash.
Bhujel alleged police had fired live ammunition, and not rubber bullets, as the cops claimed. At Dambar Chowk, just above the bus stand, GJM supporters burnt tyres in protest against the alleged police firing. Flared tempers and the unrest quelled only after a sharp spell of rain hit, which made the crowd disperse.
“When the GJM rally reached 10th Mile, they targeted the shop and tried to torch it. The mob also threw stones at the police personnel deployed in the area, because of which we had to take counter-measures,” said Ajeet Singh Yadav, Kalimpong SP. He refuted GJM allegations that live bullets were fired. “The GJM allegation is false. We used rubber bullets and teargas shells, which are non-lethal. Six police personnel were injured in stone-pelting by GJM supporters. We have started cases of arson as a fire-tender was attacked by the mob,” he said.
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