Cop killed in exchange of fire between WB police and GJM supporters

A file photo of police and GJM supporters clashing

Darjeeling, 13 Oct:

One policeman was killed today when West Bengal Police personnel clashed with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters at a forest area near Patlebas. GJM has claimed that three of its supporters were also killed in the clash which has left four other police personnel critically injured.

West Bengal police claim that the GJM supporters fired at them during a raid of a suspected hideout inside the forest where GJM Chief Bimal Gurung was believed to be hiding.

Additional Director General (law and order) Anuj Sharma told reporters in Kolkata that the police had specific information that Gurung and the group loyal to him were hiding near Patlebas, a stronghold of the GJM chief.

At 5 a.m, the search party raided the hideout inside the forest when they were allegedly fired upon by GJM supporters.

ADG Sharma said the police, which faced "heavy fire power" from the group, retaliated. Sub-Inspector Amitabha Mullick lost his life in the firing.

Six AK-47 rifles, one 9mm pistol, 500 rounds of ammunition and bombs had been recovered from the spot, he added.

He said the police had gathered information of Gurung's links with Maoists and other rebel groups in the North East.

"Gurung has procured arms from them," he said.

The GJM leader was in hiding in neighbouring Sikkim and had tried to enter the Darjeeling hills today, Sharma said, adding that he was now trying to get back to Sikkim.

The ADG said a cornered Gurung, who has lost mass support in recent times, was trying to foment trouble in the hills.

"We will not allow this to happen at any cost, even if we have to make sacrifices," he said.

Meanwhile,expelled GJM leader and Chairman of the Board of Administrators (BoA) for Darjeeling Binay Tamang blamed Bimal Gurung for today's violence in the hills and said the people of the region "will not allow Darjeeling to turn into Kashmir".

Gurung is absconding since August after the West Bengal government lodged cases against him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his alleged involvement in several bomb blasts in Darjeeling and adjoining areas.

While a faction of the GJM still supports Gurung, the faction which is being backed by the state government is led by Tamang.

"After so many days of an indefinite shutdown, the people are happy that peace is returning to the hills. It is really unfortunate that when peace and stability are returning, Gurung and his men are making desperate attempts to disturb them. Gurung is entirely responsible for today's violence," Tamang, who is here to meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, told reporters at the airport.

"We will not allow Darjeeling to turn into Kashmir. The people of the hills are peace-loving, they are not with Gurung and his politics of violence and bloodshed. There should be a proper inquiry into the violence and the culprits should be booked," he said.

On the other hand, BJP's West Bengal chief, Dilip Ghosh has accused the Trinamool Congress government of conspiring to eliminate Bimal Gurung.

This is the first such incident of violence after the 104-day long indefinite shutdown in the hills was called off on 26 Sept by Gurung.