Sun, Sep 30, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Comments over `Indian Idol' winner spark protest

AFP , KOLKATA, INDIA

Indian troops were called out to keep the peace after 30 people were hurt in clashes between police and fans of the winner of TV show "Indian Idol," police said yesterday.

The violence erupted in eastern West Bengal State on Friday after nearly 2,000 supporters of Prashant Tamang, an ethnic Nepalese, marched to lodge a protest over a radio jockey's derogatory remarks about the Indian Idol winner.

"Nearly 2,000 fans of Tamang marched in a procession and submitted a memorandum to the office of [the] subdivisional officer in Siliguri [town]," state police inspector general Raj Kanojia said.

The marchers were upset after the disc jockey referred to Tamang as a "guard," one of the jobs frequently held by ethnic Nepalese -- who live in areas that were once part of Nepal or have migrated to India.

Most ethnic Nepalese are economically marginalized.

The marchers were attacked by onlookers after some of them tried to block an ambulance. Protesters threw stones at the ambulance and set a police jeep on fire.

"The clashes snowballed into violence. Shopowners downed their shutters and the streets were deserted," Kanojia said.

The mob clashed with police when they arrived on the scene. Police fired shots in the air after teargas did not work. One person sustained bullet injuries. Eleven people, including some policemen, were hospitalized.

A curfew in Siliguri continued for a second day yesterday. Hundreds of soldiers and border security troops patrolled the streets as people stayed indoors. Tamang's supporters also called a one-day strike yesterday in surrounding areas of Siliguri in Darjeeling district, which has a huge ethnic Nepalese population. Shops and businesses closed in response, witnesses said.

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