Darjeeling: Police officer killed in clashes with GJM faction

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Kolkata: An early morning raid on Friday on a jungle camp believed to have been Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung’s hideout ended with one police officer killed and the fugitive leader again giving the administration the slip.

A large cache of arms—at least nine self-loading rifles, 2,000 rounds of ammunition and 20 gelatine sticks—was recovered from the camp, following which the police said the haul conclusively established Gurung’s links with Moaists and insurgent groups from the northeast.

When the police reached the camp deep inside a jungle, Gurung’s armed guards opened fire killing Amitabha Malik, a young police officer.

There was “specific input” that Gurung was holed up there. Even as he and others fled the camp, firing at the police, one person was arrested, said Akhilesh Chaturvedi, Darjeeling district’s superintendent of police.

The detained person has admitted that Gurung was holed up at the camp near the Sikkim-West Bengal border for over a month, Chaturvedi added.

By now, it is clear that Gurung has lost popular support in Darjeeling, said Anuj Sharma, additional director general of police (law and order). The police has evidence that he is behind the recent subversive activities in Darjeeling and that he is planning more. The arms haul conclusively establishes his links with insurgent groups and Maoists, he added.

The GJM claimed one of its activists was also killed in the exchange of fire. Chaturvedi said it is possible that some on their side were injured in the exchange, but couldn’t immediately confirm if anyone was killed.

Friday’s incident queers the pitch for the proposed tripartite talks at the Union home ministry over the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. The state government has branded Gurung a fugitive involved in subversive activities, but he continues to claim that he, as GJM president, is the true representative of the Gorkha community.

Though Union home minister Rajnath Singh appealed to Gurung to withdraw the indefinite strike in Darjeeling, the Centre must now decide if it wants to involve a “fugitive” in the discussions, said an officer in Kolkata, asking not to be named.