DARJEELING: A massive search operation was launched by the West Bengal Police today in the Darjeeling hills and adjoining areas for the absconding GJM supremo Bimal Gurung, even as the indefinite shutdown for a separate Gorkhaland entered its 80th day.
West Bengal Minister Gautam Deb has accused the Sikkim government and police administration of helping Gurung and his associates to flee.
"They (Sikkim government) have been helping the GJM. The Sikkim government and the police administration have helped Bimal Gurung and his associates to flee. They are giving protection to Gurung," he told a Bengali TV channel today.
The Sikkim government might have a "hidden agenda" behind its alleged move to help Gurung flee during a raid by the West Bengal police in that state yesterday, he said.
"Whatever the Sikkim government and their police department are doing is totally unconstitutional. When the unrest in the Darjeeling hills started they supported GJM's demand of separate state of Gorkhaland," he said.
A lookout notice had been issued against Gurung, who has cases under the UAPA against him, on Friday for his alleged involvement in various cases, including a bomb blast in Kalimpong police station in which a civic volunteer was killed.
Gurung had described the issuance of the lookout notice against him as a "conspiracy" by the West Bengal government.
"I had condemned the bomb blasts. We are holding the agitation in a democratic manner," he said in an audio message from an unknown location which was broadcast by a TV channel.
The shutdown in the hills is on after Gurung revoked party convenor Tamang's decision of suspending it till September 12, when the next round of dialogue with the state government is scheduled.
The GJM chief had also expelled Tamang yesterday on the charge of "violating the party line and indulging in antiparty activities".
Protests by pro-Gorkhaland supporters demanding the continuation of the shutdown rocked various parts of the hills and the situation remained tense.
Rallies in support of the ongoing shutdown and Gorkhaland were taken out in Darjeeling, Kurseong, Mirik, Sonada and Kalimpong.
Picketing by GJM supporters has been strengthened in several parts of the hills and posters and leaflets were distributed in support of the shutdown.
The South Sikkim district police had yesterday alleged that the West Bengal police entered its jurisdiction posing as tourists and shot dead a GJM supporter and arrested four leaders of the outfit.
South Sikkim Superintendent of Police (SP) Pratap Pradhan had said, "We do not have any official communication regarding such operations being conducted inside Sikkim by the West Bengal police."
Meanwhile, Tamang today questioned Gurung's decision to expel him lashed out at him and party general secretary Roshan Giri.
"I do not need to take lessons from them. I am a son of the soil and am fighting for the interests of my Gorkha brothers. I want to ask Gurung and Giri that if they are so concerned about fighting for Gorkhaland why did they send their families abroad so that they can be safe?" he asked.
Tamang also justified the decision to his joining the August 29 meeting convened by the state government to discuss the situation in the hills.
"They (Gurung and Giri) said that the GJM will take part in the next round of meeting scheduled on September 12. This proves that our decision was correct. Otherwise, why are they attending the next round of dialogue ?" he said.
The chairman of Kurseong municipality Krishna Limbu was arrested during the day for his alleged involvement in cases of arson and violence in the hills in June when the Gorkhaland agitation began.