A month since the demand for a separate ethnic state of Gorkhaland re-surfaced; violence broke out yet again in Darjeeling following the death of two locals.

The situation remained tense with pro-Gorkhaland agitators clashing with the police. Reports suggest government properties in different parts of the hills have been set ablaze, allegedly by the protestors.

Two columns of the Army – approximately 80 men in each – have been deployed in parts of the hills.

“Army requisitioned in Darjeeling, WB today following incidents of violence. Two columns deployed in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Sonada,” the Eastern Command said.

Darjeeling has been in the midst of an ongoing indefinite strike (since June 15) called by the Gorkhaland Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and supported by other hill parties including the GNLF – an ally of the ruling Trinamool Congress.

Two Deaths

The first set of clashes broke out a month-back on June 8, when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was holding a Cabinet meet at the Raj Bhavan. Again on June 17, unprecedented violence was reported in Darjeeling with three GJM supporters being killed in alleged police firing during the pro-Gorkhaland rallies.

Post days of lull, the situation turned tense Saturday morning onwards following the death of Tashi Bhutia, a GNLF supporter, in the Sonada area of Darjeeling.

According to allegations raised by the locals, Bhutia was killed by the police late on the night of July 7. The State government has denied any incident of police firing.

“Police is showing utmost restraint in the hills, even when they are being attacked. There is no basis to the claims that police shot and killed a person,” State’s Tourism Minister Gautam Deb said.

GNLF and Gorkhaland supporters laid siege to the Sonada police station. A second person is said to have died when clashes erupted between the police and demonstrators.

Open to Meeting

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister pointed out that she was open to talks with all to restore peace in the Darjeeling hills

She squarely blamed the BJP and the Centre for not paying heed to State’s requests and provide enough Central forces to be deployed in the Hills.

“The Centre is showing total non-cooperation in the Hills issue. I am open to talks with all. Reject violence, restore peace in Darjeeling,” she said during a press conference at the State secretariat.