Siliguri, WB: Gorkha leader Madan Tamang, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL), was Friday stabbed to death allegedly by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) supporters in this northern West Bengal town, police said. While the GJM denied its involvement, news of the death led to a spontaneous shutdown in the region.
Tamang, who led the anti-GJM Democratic Front in the Darjeeling Hills, was attacked with a khukri (long knife used by Nepalis) and swords on Laden La Road near the Planters` Club around 9.30 a.m., an official said. He was 64.
"He was critically injured in the attack and died in the Darjeeling District Hospital," Darjeeling police station inspector-in-charge Indrajit Thapa told IANS.
On hearing about the incident, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee convened an emergency meeting at the state secretariat Writers` Buildings here and directed police and administrative officials to take all measures to keep the situation under control.
ABGL general secretary Laxman Pradhan alleged that a 40-strong mob of GJM activists attacked Tamang and his associates while he was busy making arrangements for a meeting later Friday.
The meeting was organised to celebrate ABGL`s 67th foundation day. "Our foundation day is May 15. But district authorities had refused us permission on that day fearing trouble. After a lot or pleas, we were allowed to hold the meeting today (Friday)," Pradhan said.
After the mob attacked, the policemen guarding Tamang fired in the air.
Tamang, bleeding profusely from shoulder and stomach injuries, was rushed to the Darjeeling District Hospital. As his condition deteriorated, Tamang`s supporters decided to shift him to Siluguri, but he died on the way.
His body is now in the Darjeeling District Hospital.
The articulate and well-educated Tamang was involved with the hills` politics for over 40 years as a front-ranking ABGL leader. A strong advocate of a new state of Gorkhaland, to be carved out of parts of northern Bengal, Tamang had all along maintained a distinct identity of the ABGL and consistently opposed the GJM, which has been spearheading the statehood agitation for the last couple of years.
The GJM was cut up with Tamang after he levelled corruption charges against its chief Bimal Gurung and threatened to banish him from the hills.
State Municipal Affairs Minister Ashok Bhattacharya said in Kolkata that GJM supporters had carried out the attack on Tamang.
"The GJM`s goons have committed the murder. The GJM is a fascist party, which does not want any opposition in the hills. They are opposed to a democratic atmosphere prevailing in the hills," he said.
"We are deeply concerned. The hills are very tense," said Bhattacharya, who hails from Siliguri in Darjeeling district.
However, Darjeeling District Magistrate Surendra Gupta said a probe was on to identify Tamang`s killers. "There are allegations against the GJM. But only an investigation can say for certain who is involved."
The GJM, on the other hand, denied its involvement, and instead blamed the state administration.
"It`s a very unfortunate happening. It`s a dark day for the hills. Why should our men be involved? Because we know if our party is involved in the murder of a man of Tamang`s stature, then we will lose support among the people," Harka Bahadur Chhetri, GJM`s press and publicity secretary, told IANS.
"It could be the handiwork of the state government and the administration to weaken our Gorkhaland movement. It`s a big conspiracy. Whoever is involved, irrespective of party affiliation, he should be given exemplary punishment," he said.
As news of Tamang`s killing spread, a spontaneous shutdown began in the three Darjeeling hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.
Vehicles in Darjeeling went off the roads, while shops and markets were closed.
"There is lot of tension and panic in the hills. Anything may happen any time," a police officer said.