Unrest in Darjeeling is a deep rooted conspiracy : Mamata Banerjee

Darjeeling on the boil

All hopes of a climb-down from Mamata Banerjee were quashed when the chief minister, addressing reporters from her office in Kolkata, adopted a defiant posture, denying the police had any role in the deaths of GJM supporters earlier in the day.

The chief minister met the journalists on a day when the GJM's supporters clashed with the police in Darjeeling, resulting in spilling of blood.

Reacting to Morcha's claim that two of their supporters were killed in police firing, additional director general of police (law and order) Anuj Sharma said, "It was the Morchas who had fired". One civilian was killed and 36 security personnel, including an Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) officer, were injured in Saturday's violence. So much of arms, ammunition and explosives can not be stored overnight. I will request the Central government not to encourage them to behave like this. However, just about 200 metres away, at Bhanu Bhawan, hundreds of supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) - the most important hill party - launched a sudden attack on the police contingent near the meeting venue.

Banerjee said she is ready for talks but not under the current situation. "Any negotiation can take place only after GJM withdraws a bandh", she said.

"The board members have set up a committee to maintain peace", she said. "We can't support those who are indulging in violence and hooliganism", she said.

The GJM insisted the police had fired on the protesters.

The state government also asked the Army to deploy forces in the wake of the Bandh to ensure normalcy in the state.

On a day otherwise ideal for a gentle stroll, Singamari, the ground zero of protests, witnessed intense clashes spanning over three hours as several police vehicles were torched and the area that is usually teeming with tourists turned into a virtual battleground.

The GJM, however, claimed that two party supporters were killed in police firing.

Referring to the agitation against alleged imposition of Bengali, she said it was only an optional subject and not mandatory and GJM was spreading rumours to misguide the people of the hills.

The government has signalled it won't bow down before the GJM but is facing an unprecedented crisis just weeks after the Trinamool Congress made history by registering its first victory in a hill municipality when it won Mirik. The hill parties - led by the BJP ally GJM - have come together to press for a 100-year-old demand to separate Gorkhaland from the plains of West Bengal, a claim bitterly opposed by Banerjee. After that, the protestors reportedly became violent and threw stones at the police. "Ready to talk to them, we can not support the violation of the Constitution", added Banerjee.

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