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At firing site, no police in sight

Khunia More, Feb. 9: The bodies of two Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters killed in the police firing yesterday were brought to Sibchu where around 5,000 people had gathered despite prohibitory orders.

No policemen were posted in the area, a day after a Morcha-police stand-off there ignited widespread violence. The party had called a bandh in the Dooars today where few vehicles plied in the Morcha-dominated areas.

At 10.30am, police stopped a convoy of 11 cars at Khunia More carrying around 70 Morcha supporters and the relatives of Vicky lama and Bimala Rai, the teenager and the young woman who died in the firing, citing Section 144. Trilokchand Roka, a Morcha central committee member, led the vehicles that had come from Kumani, 14km from here. They were on their way to the Jalpaiguri district hospital morgue to receive the bodies.

“Section 144 is still in force and we cannot allow so many vehicles and people through. However, we allowed one mini-truck with five persons to proceed to the district hospital,” subdivisional police officer of Malbazar Arindam Sarkar later said.

The police barricade, however, allowed a car carrying Bimala’s uncle Jairaj Lama and brother Bimal Rai.

“This is not good, the police should have let the grieving relatives and villagers to go and receive the bodies. They are not criminals and are in mourning,” Roka said before heading back to Sibchu, 7km from here.

At the scene of yesterday’s firing, there was a silent crowd of about 5,000 Morcha supporters. The bodies that were handed over to the families at 4.30pm were brought to Sibchu and then taken to Kumani where Morcha leaders paid their respects.

A car belonging to Kalchini MLA Wilson Champromari, who was the only person arrested yesterday, was seized at Khunia More.

“We searched the car and found a large khukhuri and seized it. The car also had no valid papers and was also seized. We have detained the driver, Mahesh Lama, and Rohit Thapa, who was accompanying him. No one can carry a weapon, be it traditional, when prohibitory orders are in force,” the subdivisional police officer said.

Police sources said the detained duo had come from Sibchu and said they were carrying medicines for the arrested MLA.

Champromari, a Morcha-supported independent, was arrested from Sibchu after the firing and was remanded in judicial custody yesterday for 14 days by the chief judicial magistrate of Jalpaiguri.

Police said he had been arrested for violating prohibitory orders and charged with inciting attack on the police (Section 152 of the IPC) and provoking violence (Section 153, IPC).

Morcha supporters set up road blockades at Jaigaon, Hashimara, Dalsinghpara, Birpara, Madarihat, Chamurchi and Bagrakote between 10am and noon. They were lifted around 5pm. There was some tension in Hashimara and Chamurchi where traders were forced to down shutters, the police said. Work in tea gardens was normal.

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