West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee (right) and GJM leader Bimal Gurung have been on a warpath ever since the state government decided to make Bengali a mandatory subject for all schools in the state. Photograph: (Zee News Network)
Bimal Gurung, who is spearheading the agitation, has vowed to retaliate to the 'atrocities' of the police
The army has been deployed in several locations of Darjeeling as north of West Bengal continues to simmer following the state government's decision to make Bengali a compulsory subject in all schools.
Thursday was a low point in the agitation as supporters of a separate Gorkhaland state clashed with the police and torched a police vehicle. The police reportedly teargassed and baton-charged to disperse the dissenting crowd.
The police also raided separatist party Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's (GJM) office. They recovered more than 300 weapons, including arrows and explosives, in the raids. A few party activists were also arrested in Darjeeling's Singmari and Patlebas areas, police said.
The raids, coupled with the clash with the police, has prompted GJM leader Bimal Gurung to accuse the Mamata Banerjee administration of "attacking" democracy.
"Our party members and opposition parties will reply to the atrocities," Gurung told ANI, in response to the previous day's raids.
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.
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.