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Police show restraint on day of mourning

The Morcha march with the body of a slain supporter at Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling on Sunday. 
Picture by Passang Yolmo

Darjeeling, June 18: Police allowed the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to bring out a procession with the body of a slain party member at Chowk Bazar here today - a reflection of change in the stance of the government after yesterday's violence.

Sources said the police had allowed the Morcha to organise a march for the first time today since the June 8 violence during the chief minister's stay in Darjeeling.

"A clampdown on the Morcha march today would have only provoked people and made things difficult for the state administration to handle ahead of chief minister Mamata Banerjee's foreign visit starting tomorrow. The change in the police's stance betrays the administration's rethink vis-à-vis the handing of law and order in the hills after yesterday's violence," said a source.

Three processions were allowed to take place in a span of two hours today. Altogether, over 1,000 Morcha supporters, including traders, took part in the marches which converged on Chowk Bazar, the same spot where the law enforcers had cracked down on a procession on June 10.

Around 10.30 this morning, hours before a huge rally demanding Gorkhaland would reach Chowk Bazar, senior police officers led by Darjeeling police superintendent Akhilesh Chaturvedi took positions, along with his counterpart in the Counter Insurgency Force.

A brigade of women personnel from the RAF was lined up along either side of the road and messages were sent out that there should not be any action unless things turned violent. Police personnel were placed atop buildings and the army was called in to ensure that the situation didn't spiral out of control on the slightest pretext.

A hearse carrying the body of Bimal Shashankar formed the part of the third rally. The 28-year-old's body was released from Darjeeling district hospital after post-mortem last night and taken to his native place for funeral.

However, the body was brought back to Darjeeling for the procession today.

Angry Morcha supporters booed the police and state administration as youths and women turned up in huge numbers in the marches.

"Darjeeling SP go back," some of them shouted as the procession went past senior police officers standing on the road. The army turned up in two vans and followed the main procession with the body even as cries against Mamata Banerjee government filled the afternoon air.

"Police have realised that it was because of them that three Morcha supporters lost their lives yesterday. They had opened fire," said D.K. Pradhan, the chairman of Darjeeling Municipality and a Morcha leader. "If the administration had allowed all Morcha marches to be held in the past, Darjeeling would have never witnessed violence. Had it not been for yesterday's violence, we were planning to relax the strike today," he added.


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