DARJEELING, June 17: One protester died and eight police personnel were injured after Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters clashed with state policemen and paramilitary forces in Darjeeling’s Singmari area on Saturday.

“GJM supporters started firing at police, set police vehicles on fire. One GJM supporter died due to firing by GJM supporters,” Darjeeling ADG (Law&Order) told reporters at a press briefing, news agency ANI reported.

It was earlier reported that Indian Reserve Battalion’s 2nd Battalion assistant commandant Kiran Tamang was allegedly killed by GJM supporters at Singmari. However, chief minister Mamta Banerjee later clarified that the news of Tamang’s death was incorrect. He was severely injured during the clashes and his condition is critical, Mamata said.

GJM supporters blocked the Siliguri-Kursoung via Pankhabari road and inititated the “Go Patlebas” mission. The protest rally began from three different points – Chawk Bazar, Lebong and Singmari – and was headed to Patlebas, where GJM chief Bimal Gurung’s house is situated.

The three rallies met at Singmari, where cops attempted to stop them, which subsequently lead to the clashes. GJM protesters pelted stones and hurled bottles at security personnel, who retaliated by firing tear gas shells and baton-charging the mob.

Tensions were running high after police arrested GJM’s media advisor Bikram Rai, who is the son of party MLA Amal Rai. Morcha leader Binay Tamang has alleged that on Friday night Police along with few TMC supporters vandalized his home and threatened his family members.

GJM supporters also pelted stones and lobbed petrol bombs at the residence of Trinamool Congress activist Deoraj Gurung in Lebong Cart Road and attempted to set the house on fire. Armed with weapons, drunk GJM activists threatened TMC supporters with dire consequences.

Tourism has come to a virtual standstill in the hilly region as the GJM sponsored indefinite shutdown entered the sixth day on Saturday. The Indo-Bhutan border has also been sealed.

The GJM announced an indefinite general strike from Monday in the hills encompassing Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and the Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas covering stretches of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar district) protesting against chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to make Bengali language compulsory in state-run schools.

The strike was called even as the chief minister assured that the new rule would not be imposed in the hill districts.

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