DARJEELING: Fresh clashes between police and supporters of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) that erupted in the early hours of Friday near Darjeeling killed a sub-inspector and injured two other police personnel.
The sub-inspector killed in the incident has been identified as Amithbha Mullick.
The clashes erupted when the police raided Tukvar area near Patlaybas – a stronghold of Bimal Gurung – after receiving information that he had entered Darjeeling through Tukvar.
Bimal is wanted in connection with charges under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for his alleged involvement in various bomb blasts in Darjeeling and adjoining areas.
Speaking at a press conference, West Bengal additional director general of police (law and order) Anuj Sharma said: “Bimal Gurung and his team of anti-socials were near Darjeeling. Police raided their hideout at around 5 am on Friday morning and heavy exchange of fire took place in which we lost our fine officer Amitabha Mullick.” Sources said Gurung loyalists are battling the state police forces with small arms in a bid to help their leader escape the spot.
“About six AK-47 assault rifles, one 9 mm pistol and 500 rounds of ammunition and bomb making materials have been recovered from the search area,” Sharma said . In his statement, he also accused Bimal Gurung of having links with Maoists and Northeast insurgent groups. “We have specific inputs that all the bomb blasts, arson, fire that the hills witnessed in the past few months were conducted under the leadership of Bimal Gurung,” Sharma said.
A number of police vehicles were also set ablaze during the clashes.
The GJM chief remained in hiding in Sikkim during most of the 104-day indefinite strike in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.
The West Bengal police along with their Sikkim counterparts had conducted several operations to nab Bimal Gurung earlier, but he slipped off every time.
“He was hiding in Sikkim. After the encounter, he had slipped back to the territory of our northern neighbour,” Sharma added.
On Thursday night, Bimal Gurung had released an audio clip stating that he would make a public appearance before his supporters in Darjeeling on October 30. In the clip, he urged them to hit the roads on that day.
"If I need to die, I will do so before the people," Gurung said.
Gurung's call to hit the streets is seen as a last ditched effort to drum up his support base, which is seeing a steady decline due to the onslaught of the Binay Tamang faction, to which a majority of the councillors in Darjeeling and Kurseong municipalities have pledged allegiance.
Meanwhile, North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb announced that Gurung would soon be arrested. “Peace has returned to the hills which Gurung and his supporters cannot digest. He is facing charges under UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act) and we will do whatever it needs to arrest him,” Deb said.