Clashes, protests intensify amid shutdown in India’s Darjeeling town

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PTI Photo by Ashok Bhaumik

NEW DELHI (Xinhua) — A police officer was allegedly stabbed by protesters during fresh clashes that erupted in Darjeeling town of India’s eastern state of West Bengal Saturday amid the shutdown, police said.

“The protesters attacked one of our assistant commanders T N Tamang with a khukuri (knife),” a senior official told Xinhua. “He was removed to the hospital and his condition is stated to be critical.”

Protests at the hill station broke out after the son of a lawmaker was arrested and a senior Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader’s house was allegedly vandalized Friday night.

Police said GJM supporters threw stones, bottles at government forces, who responded by using tear gas and resorting to baton charging.

The protesters set a government office and a police vehicle on fire, following which army was called in.

Over a dozen protesters including some policemen were injured in the clashes, reports said

The agitation in the town began last week against the imposition of Bengali language in schools in the hills. The protesters led by GJM now have started a decades-old demand of separate state of Gorkhaland.

The ongoing agitation has crippled tourism in the hills.

The indefinite shutdown called by the GJM has paralyzed life in the hill town as markets, shops, hotels and other business establishments have been closed. The iconic toy train service has also been suspended, officials said.

The shutdown and protests in Darjeeling continue despite local government assurances that the new rule to impose Bengali would not be enforced in the hill districts.

The local Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee describes the ongoing flare-up in Darjeeling as a “conspiracy.”

“Whatever is happening is a deep-rooted conspiracy,” Banerjee told reporters.