Pre-dawn swoop on Gorkha neta sparks shootout, cop killed

GJM Chief Gu­rung Es­capes, Po­lice Launch Man­hunt

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION -

Darjeeling: A sub-in­spec­tor was killed and four po­lice­men were in­jured in a gun bat­tle in a riverbed close to the WestBen­gal-Sikkim bor­der dur­ing a pre-dawn op­er­a­tion on Fri­day to catch fugi­tive Gorkha Jan­mukti Mor­cha leader Bi­mal Gu­rung.

Alarge cache of arms and am­mu­ni­tion, in­clud­ing as­sault ri­fles and over 1,000 det­o­na­tors and gelatin sticks, were re­cov­ered from the en­counter site around 27km from Darjeeling town. Gu­rung man­aged to es­cape but po­lice have launched a man­hunt for him.

Se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers said a search party com­pris­ing over 100 cops led by the Darjeeling DSP (head­quar­ters) and com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the 10th Bat­tal­ion of the Re­serve Force left Darjeeling Sadar po­lice sta­tion around 1am on Fri­day fol­low­ing in­tel­li­gence about Gu­rung’s move­ments along with cadres of Gorkhaland Per­son­nel (GLP), an armed group look­ing af­ter his se­cu­rity. Be­lieved to be in hid­ing in Sikkim af­ter the Bengal gov­ern­ment filed three UAPA cases against him, Gu­rung, the po­lice learnt, was at­tempt­ing to cross the Ch­hota Ran­git river.

The team trav­elled to Sing- mari, Patle­bas, and down­hill to­wards Tuk­var, about 6km from Darjeeling town. There­after, they aban­doned their ve­hi­cles and started trekking down­hill be­fore split­ting up into 10 teams to comb the forested ar­eas near Bar­nes­beg, Badamtang and Singla tea es­tates. “It took an hour and a half to reach the riverbed. That is when the in­dis­crim­i­nate fir­ing be­gan,” a se­nior of­fi­cer­told TOI.

Caught in an open riverbed with no cover, five cops were struck down be­fore they could re­spond. ASI Ami­tava Ma­lik died on the spot. The po­lice re­tal­i­ated af­ter the ini­tial set­back and the ex­change con­tin­ued for 15 min­utes be­fore the at­tack­ers, al­legedly GLP cadres, re­treated.

“The men were heav­ily armed with au­to­matic weapons and didn’t hes­i­tate to fire on po­lice­men. This in­di­cates Gu­rung was at the spot and needed the fire cover to flee. But with cops sur­round­ing the area, we be­lieve he did not man­age to es­cape to Sikkim. We have found blood­stains on the other bank of Ran­git,” said Darjeeling SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi.

GJM claimed three of its sup­port­ers were killed in po­lice fir­ing but the po­lice, which ar­rested one per­son, did not con­firm it. “The arms and am­mu­ni­tion we re­cov­ered clearly show that they were smug­gled from the North­east. One per­son has been ar­rested and he is co­op­er­at­ing with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Chaturvedi said.

Later in the day, the Kurseong po­lice also claimed to have foiled a ma­jor at­tack on their force af­ter raid­ing a GLP hide­out in Pe­dong jun­gle that was be­ing used by Gu­rung and his as­so­ci­ates to move be­tween Darjeeling and Sikkim. Pow­ergel ex­plo­sives, elec­tri­cal det­o­na­tors, pipe bombs and bore guns were re­cov­ered.

Po­lice also said they had caught four GJM sym­pa­this- ers — three of whom al­legedly have GLP links. How­ever, one of Gu­rung’s most trusted aides — his rel­a­tive and for­mer GTA mem­ber Dawa Lepcha — man­aged to es­cape. Lepcha had been in­stru­men­tal in es­cort­ing Gu­rung to safety when the CID and Darjeeling po­lice had raided Nam­chi, in Sikkim, over a month ago.

At the state sec­re­tar­iat, ad­di­tional direc­tor-gen­eral of po­lice (law and or­der) Anuj Sharma said the po­lice team had spe­cific in­for­ma­tion about Gu­rung’s plan to stoke trou­ble in the Hills. “We know he has in­structed his cadres to at­tack cops and cre­ate trou­ble in Darjeeling afresh for his own per­sonal gain. He (Gu­rung) has links with Maoists and North­east in­sur­gent groups,” Sharma said.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion feels the foiled at­tacks were a des­per­ate at­tempt by Gu­rung to re­gain lost turf in Darjeeling. The emer­gence of Gu­rung’s ad­ver­sary, Gorkhaland Ter­ri­to­rial Ad­min­is­tra­tion (GTA) act­ing chair­man Bi­nay Ta­mang, as one of the lead­ing ne­go­tia­tors in talks with the state has left Gu­rung an­gry and frus­trated.

Later in the af­ter­noon, Bengal CM Ma­mata Ban­er­jee held an hour-long meet­ing with Ta­mang and Anit Thapa at Na­banna. The act­ing GTA chair­man left for Darjeeling on Fri­day.

Fri­day’s in­ci­dent is the first ma­jor in­ci­dent of vi­o­lence af­ter the 100-day strike was lifted in Darjeeling.

Arms and am­mu­ni­tion, in­clud­ing as­sault ri­fles and over 1,000 det­o­na­tors and gelatin sticks, re­cov­ered from the en­counter site on Fri­day

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