WEST BENGAL

Police on high alert after two blasts in Bengal hills

bomb-blast-rep Representational Image

Police in northern West Bengal hills has been put on "high alert" and counter-insurgency strategies enforced after two major blasts in 24 hours in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, an official said on Sunday.

"All police stations have been put on high alert. The security protocol followed in insurgency-hit areas is being followed here," Kalimpong Superintendent of Police Ajit Singh Yadav told IANS.

"New types of weapons have been issued to policemen," he said.

Civic volunteer Rakesh Raut was killed and a Home Guard and a Seema Sashastra Bal trooper were injured in a blast outside Kalimpong police station on Saturday night.

The explosion occurred less than 24 hours after a blast in the heart of Darjeeling hill town that damaged a few shops and triggered tension.

"A high-intensity explosive was used in Kalimpong," the official said.

Kalimpong District Magistrate Vishwanath said prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure had been imposed since August 10 for one month, adding that police was taking additional measures for security.

"Section 144 was imposed within a radius of 100 metres of all government properties in Kalimpong from August 10 to September 10. Additional security steps has been taken up by police after the blast," Viswanath told IANS.

Tourism Minister Gautam Deb condemned the blasts and claimed the explosives were brought from outside the country.

He said everyone should put aside political differences and come together to ensure security in north Bengal hills, which is critically positioned vis-a-vis neighbouring countries.

Both blasts took place on the 69th day of the indefinite shutdown called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which wants a separate Gorkhaland in the north Bengal hills.

Police said the blast in Darjeeling was caused by an Improvised Explosive Device. A FIR was registered against three Morcha leaders, including GJM chief Bimal Gurung.

The GJM leadership denied the charges and claimed the blast was the handiwork of those who did not want Gorkhaland to come into existence. The GJM on Sunday demanded that the closed-circuit television footage from outside Kalimpong police station be made public.

"We condemn the blasts. Investigative agencies should thoroughly probe these incidents. We also demand that the CCTV footage from the Kalimpong police station be made public so that everyone knows what happened," GJM leader Swaraj Thapa said.

Gurung said he had written to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to demand a high-level inquiry into the blasts. 

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