A vehicle belonging to Zee News was set on fire by protesters in Darjeeling. Photograph: (ANI)
A mob of protesters allegedly belonging to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) set a Zee News vehicle on fire amidst clashes with police in Darjeeling on Thursday.
Miscreants also torched a government bus in Paglajhora, Kurseong.
The violence in Darjeeling intensified today after a series of raids near premises of the separatist GJM chief Bimal Gurung, sparking a call by the separatist group for an indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling hills.
Police recovered more than 300 weapons, including arrows and explosives in the raids. A few party activists were also arrested in the raids in Darjeeling's Singmari and Patlebas areas, police said.
Darjeeling's top cop Akhilesh Chaturvedi said he had received information that GJM was gathering arms to attack the police, so the security forces conducted raids in several places.
A car belonging to Zee News was attacked after a mob of protesters started advancing towards police who had started withdrawing after the raids.
The Zee News crew and vehicle were stranded in between.
The mob pelted stones and hurled petrol bombs from a height on the crew and towards police.
The Zee News crew had a narrow escape as it abandoned its equipment and ran for cover, while the Zee vehicle, an Innova, was badly damaged by a petrol bomb.
The Morcha meanwhile condemned the incident and the attack on policemen.
GJM leader Binay Tamang earlier denied any wrongdoing and said, "We are tribals, about to hold our traditional archery competition. They showed our traditional equipment as weapons."
Inspector General Siddhinath Gupta, who confirmed the incident, said action would be taken against the agitators.
The Home Ministry has asked the West Bengal government for a report on the Gorkhaland issue, and asked the state government to maintain law and order.
The demand by the GJM for a separate Gorkhaland state to be carved out of the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal state is fast turning into a major political crisis for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and is likely to cripple the critical tourist industry during the peak summer season.
Bimal Gurung has asked tourists to avoid Darjeeling, West Bengal's tea-growing region and also one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.
The raids came on the fourth day of the indefinite strike called by the GJA in government and GTA offices in the hills.
The GJM's call for a separate state of Gorkhaland gained momentum after six other hill parties extended their support and unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday for a new state to be carved out of Darjeeling hills.
The area is largely populated by Gorkhas who resent the imposition of Bengali, the predominant language of the rest of the state.
The Centre has dispatched 600 paramilitary personnel to assist the West Bengal government in restoring normalcy in violence-hit Darjeeling hills.