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Army called as violence rises in Darjeeling

The Army was recalled in Darjeeling after fresh violence erupted on Saturday, leading to the death of three people allegedly in police firing. The police refuted the allegations, saying only tear gas shells and rubber bullets were fired to disperse a violent mob.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also battling communal violence in North 24-Parganas, blamed the Centre for Saturday’s escalation. Hitting out at the Centre for its alleged “non-cooperation”, she said that Delhi had not responded to her government’s request for more Central forces to maintain peace in the Hills.

The ruling Trinamul Congress has accused the BJP of instigating violence in both Darjeeling and Basirhat.

The BJP is an ally of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). Following the alleged police firing, protesters set fire to a number of government offices, police vehicles and a station of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly known as the toy train, a world heritage site.

“Two Army columns have been deployed — one in Darjeeling and another in Sonada, where a railway station has been set on fire,” Eastern Command spokesperson Wing Commader S.S. Birdi, said.

The Army had been withdrawn nearly two weeks ago from the hill districts where the Gorkhaland agitation has been raging for nearly two months. Ms Banerjee hit out at the Centre on Saturday, alleging “non-cooperation” in responding to her government’s request for four companies of Central forces for maintenance of law and order in the Hills.

“The violence in Darjeeling is a planned one. There are foreign links to this violence. We had sent requisitions for Central forces at least on four occasions in the last one month, but they didn’t act. If we had got paramilitary forces in the right time, situation would not have aggravated and today’s incident of violence would not have happened,” Ms Banerjee said.

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