Dooars clash over tribal bandh call

JALPAIGURI: Dooars was rocked by violence on Wednesday as tribal and non-tribal mobs clashed at a number places over Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parshad's (ABAVP) call for an indefinite school bandh.

ABAVP has called the bandh demanding the recruitment of Hindi-speaking teachers and the immediate transfer of non-Hindi-speaking teachers from all Hindi-medium schools in the Dooars and Terai region.

The day's worst flare-up was reported from the Duramari Bazar area of Jalpaiguri's Dhupguri block. ABAVP activists first tried to shut down a school in Duramari forcibly. The non-tribal residents of the area retaliated and drove out the ABAVP picketeers.

But within some time, the tribals returned in force and raided the villages armed with bows, arrows and other traditional weapons. The locals, too, confronted them with lathis and stones and the area turned into a battlefield. Several

people were injured in the incident, with eight persons landing in hospital.

A huge police force rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control. They had to fire at least 10 rounds in the air to disperse the mob after a lathicharge and tear-gas shelling failed to have an effect.

In Gairkata area, the non-tribals blocked the road to protest against the ABAVP bandh. Students and their guardians sat on the road for the entire day, bringing all traffic to a standstill. A vehicle carrying ABAVP activists was also caught in the jam. Hearing of this, a large number of ABAVP activists set out for Gairkata from different tea gardens. But, police arrived before them and took up position on the road, preventing a confrontation between the two sides. Those blocking the road ransacked two police vehicles, demanding government intervention to have the schools opened.

Initially, ABAVP had decided to keep only Hindi-medium schools under the purview of the bandh. But the plan was changed to shut all schools.

The tribal body held its central committee meeting at Nagrakata in the evening, where it was decided that the school bandh would continue at any cost. "If required, we will also close down all the government offices
in the Dooars and Terai," said Rajesh Lakra, secretary of ABAVP's Dooars-Terai committee.