KOLKATA: West Bengal government is likely to initiate talks with Sikkim to seek cooperation to nab Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supremo Bimal Gurung. The state had accused its northern neighbour of giving shelter to the GJM supremo who is wanted in several cases including Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act) (UAPA), murder, rioting and arson. The relations between the two neighbours soured after Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Changing wrote a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh extending support to Gorkhaland statehood.
"A meeting will soon be convened between bureaucrats of the two states where we will raise the points how the Gorkhaland agitation took a hit to Sikkim's economy," a senior official of the West Bengal government said. However, the date and venue of the meeting is yet to be finalised.
The relations between the two neighbours soured after Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Changing wrote a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh extending support to Gorkhaland statehood. The West Bengal administration retaliated by writing a letter to Singh protesting against Sikkim's interference in the internal affairs of West Bengal. Since then, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has publicly lambasted the Sikkim administration more than once accusing it of harbouring Gurung, whom she called an 'absconding fugitive'.
Sikkim's economy and connection with rest of India depends on the National Highway 10 that connects Siliguri with Gangtok. During the present phase of the Gorkhaland agitation, several Sikkim vehicles were vandalised and Sikkimese drivers and passengers attacked by Bengali hardline groups in Siliguri after Chamling pledged support to Gorkhaland.
According to sources in the Sikkim administration, the West Bengal government had in past brought up Sikkim's vulnerability in NH 10 to exert pressure on the state to nab and extradite Bimal Gurung. However, unlike the previous bouts of strikes, this time the highway was kept open during much of the recent 104-day strike in the hills.
The West Bengal Crime Investigation Department (CID) had launched two operations to nab Gurung at Namchi area in Sikkim-West Bengal border on August 31 and October 7, but failed in their objective.
However, they nabbed atleast 9 senior GJM leaders during the raids from whom they received vital information about the whereabouts of Gurung. CID sources revealed that the arrests of top GJM leaders from Sikkim helped in the tip-off of Gurung's presence in Tukvar area of Darjeeling district on October 13, leading to the alleged encounter between police and Gurung loyalists that led to the death of SI Amitava Malik and recovery of huge cache of AK-47s, ammunitions and gelatin sticks.
On the other hand, Sikkim police had filed an FIR against Kalimpong district SP Ajit Kumar Yadav and senior CID officials accusing them of killing a GJM supporter in Namchi on August 31 by entering the state in disguise of tourists bound for Ravangla in western Sikkim and keeping the Sikkim counterparts completely in the dark. West Bengal government had accused Sikkim of non-cooperation in both the operations to nab Gurung.