Cooch Behar, Sept. 20: A senior police officer and two constables were killed today in attacks by demonstrators demanding statehood for the north Bengal district of Cooch Behar.
As police opened fire on stone-throwing mobs, two unidentified men died. Two others, both youths and sick, died as they got stuck on their way to the hospital in the blockade by the demonstrators.
Violence broke out at noon when supporters of the Greater Cooch Behar People’s Association tried to break through police barriers, using women to lead the charge, set up on the town’s outskirts.
The organisation’s objective was to sit in a mass, indefinite hunger strike to press for their demand in front of the district magistrate’s office.
More than a thousand policemen had been deployed since yesterday and prohibitory orders were in force. The demonstrators had turned up in large numbers, too.
They had gathered in various places outside the town and at one of these the mob broke through the barrier. Under attack, the police first fired in the air but that did not work. In the subsequent firing on the mob, two people died.
Around the same time, at another spot, the situation went out of hand as demonstrators attacked the police, succeeding in isolating two of the men ' Gour Chandra Dhar and Jogesh Chandra Sarkar ' and lynched them.
The north Bengal inspector-general of police, K.L. Meena, who was injured, said: “We had no option but to fire as the mob was bent upon attacking the police and destroying public property. More than a hundred police personnel were injured.”
Mushtaq Ahmed, the additional superintendent of Kalimpong, was among them, as were two lady sub-inspectors. Ahmed died later in a Siliguri nursing home.
Birendra Bansphor, 15, suffering from a mystery fever, and Pradip Minz, 20, afflicted with malignant malaria, died in the ambulance that was bringing them to the MJN Hospital here.
Before the violence, the association’s secretary, Bangsibadan Barman, said: “The erstwhile rulers of Cooch Behar never signed a treaty that made the state a part of West Bengal. According to the treaty, the state should be ruled by a council of ministers appointed by the Centre.” (See P 13)