18 arrested for burning police outpost in Darjeeling

Siliguri, Feb 22 (IANS) Eighteen Gorkhaland activists were arrested Monday after a mob set a police outpost in Darjeeling district afire Sunday following the rejection of their demand that a murder accused be handed over to them.

Policemen patrolled deserted roads in Sukna, 18 km from here, while a platoon of India Reserve Battalion (IRB) was posted in the town and another at Salbari to restore normalcy in the area, Inspector General of Police (North Bengal) K.L. Tamta told IANS over phone.

‘The policemen are patrolling the streets which are deserted. We are trying to relocate the Sukna outpost, which was burnt down,’ he said.

After conducting intensive door-to-door searches, security personnel arrested 18 people, owing allegiance to the students and womens’ wings of the pro-Gorkhaland Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), who had allegedly attacked the outpost under Pradhan Nagar police station of the district.

‘Our radio flying squads are also out on the streets there. We do not want any repeat of Sunday’s incidents. We will tolerate the agitators as long as they only raise slogans and gherao government offices. But we won’t allow any breach of peace,’ Tamta said.

A group of agitators surrounded the officer-in-charge of the outpost Sunday to protest the police’s failure in arresting a murder accused.

‘Around 4.30 p.m. the man was arrested. Then the agitators lifted the agitation and dispersed. But they came back around 7 p.m. with a fresh demand that the accused be handed over to them. Naturally, police did not agree,’ Tamta said.

The agitators then turned violent and set the outpost on fire.

Meanwhile, three companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) reached Siliguri to maintain normalcy on national highway 31 A, considered the lifeline of Sikkim, in case of any agitation by the GJM.

The GJM activists have in the past blockaded the highway during their agitations, cutting off Sikkim from the rest of the country. ‘So, as per a central government order following a directive from the judiciary, the CRPF have been deployed on the highway. But we are trying to use one company in the Darjeeling Hills,’ Tamta said.

The northern Bengal town of Siliguri is 606 km from Kolkata. The GJM has been spearheading a movement for a separate Gorkhaland state comprising parts of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts.

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