The cortege of Vicky Lama at Kalchini. (Anirban Choudhury)
Feb. 10: A 100-strong mob today surrounded the convoy carrying the body of one of those killed in the Sibchu firing and pelted the vehicles with stones triggering a retaliation in Malbazar where at least three trucks were set afire by suspected Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters.
The Morcha leadership has blamed the CPM for orchestrating the attack.
The convoy of 15 vehicles, including the truck carrying Bimala Rais body, had arrived in front of the Malbazar subdivisional hospital on its way to her village in Khani when stones were thrown at the cars.
Police said local people at Malbazar, a Dooars town 64km from Jalpaiguri, forced the convoy to stop when they heard Morcha supporters shouting statehood slogans. The situation became tense and suddenly stones were thrown at the cars and the windshields of two of them were shattered. Over a hundred local people had stopped the convoy, the police said.
A police force from the Malbazar police station, about 500 metres from the spot, dispersed the crowd and the convoy went on its way with a police jeep as escort.
Two hours later, around 12 noon, violence erupted after Vicky Lamas body crossed Madarihat, 82km from Jalpaiguri, where Morcha supporters set up a road blockade. The police said a convoy of about 80 vehicles and a large number of youths on motor-cycles accompanied the body to Rungamittee Tea Estate where 16-year-old Vicky lived.
The block development officer of Madarihat, Hirak Mondol, said around 12.30pm, Morcha supporters set a dump truck parked near a petrol pump on NH31C on fire and also torched a motorcycle. Additional superintendent of police of Alipurduar, Anup Jaiswal, arrived at the spot around 2.30pm with policemen and CRPF personnel and urged them to disperse.
Mondol said the crowd began to throw stones at the police. They were lathicharged and 15 tear-gas shells were burst, he said. The Morcha activists scattered, but set on fire two more trucks on NH31C, a kilometre away and damaged about five others parked along the highway, the BDO said.
The press and publicity secretary of the Morcha, Harka Bahadur Chhetri, said: The CPM is out to create violence with the help of its cadre. Our party supporters did not have any hand in the incident at Madarihat.
Jalpaiguri police chief Anand Kumar said the Morcha used a large number of vehicles to transport the bodies violating Section 144.
Bimala Rais body arrived at Dambar Chowk, the heart of Kalimpong town, around 2pm.
From a loudspeaker placed on a jeep came slogans like Gorkhaland ko lagi shahid hune Bimala Rai amar rahos (Long live Gorkhaland martyr Bimala Rai), and Jaan dinchhu, pranm dinchhu, Gorkhaland hami linchhu linchhu (We will give our lives and souls but we will take Gorkhaland).
Bimalas body was then taken to her village in Khani, about 25km from Kalimpong, where her funeral will take place tomorrow.