|(From top) The arrested Morcha leader, Bimal Darjee, outside a court in Kurseong on Friday; Bimal Gurung and Asha Gurung. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, March 14: Bimal Darjee, a central committee member of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, was arrested today in connection with old cases related to the statehood agitation.
The arrest has raised fears among Morcha leaders that Mamata Banerjee would launch another crackdown on the outfit in the wake of its support to the BJP candidate in Darjeeling.
The Morcha suffered another blow today when a Darjeeling court denied anticipatory bail to GTA Sabha chief Bimal Gurung and his wife Asha in an attempt-to-murder case of 2010.
Darjee was picked up from his house at Tindharia, 30km from Kurseong, around 3am. He is one of the prominent leaders of the Morcha in the area.
Akhilesh Chaturvedi, the superintendent of police, Darjeeling, said: “The arrest has been made as there were pending warrants against him.”
He couldn’t immediately recollect the cases. However, sources said Darjee had five pending warrants against him registered since 2007.
According to the sources, the cases included a bid to burn down a forest bungalow at Mahanadi on February 8, 2011 and an attempt on life of ex-GNLF leader I.N. Pradhan on September 11, 2009.
Other cases were in connection with road blockade and obstacle in the duty of government staff among others.
Darjee, 54, was produced in the additional chief judicial magistrate’s court in Kurseong and was remanded in jail custody till March 18.
Binay Tamang, assistant secretary of the Morcha, said the party had apprehended arrests ahead of the polls. “For so long, he (Darjee) had not been arrested but he was suddenly arrested today. This is something we had anticipated. The Trinamul Congress might be thinking that the party will benefit in the elections by arresting Morcha leaders but on the contrary, such a move will only motivate our supporters to defeat anti-Gorkhaland forces.”
Tamang also said when the GTA agreement had been signed, the state government had agreed to withdraw all cases, except murder.
A Morcha leader who refused to be named was more forthcoming. “The arrest has raised fears of a fresh crackdown on the Morcha, this time for having an alliance with the BJP.”
Another leader of the Morcha said if the arrests continued, then it would have a “negative impact” on Trinamul in the Darjeeling hills. “This will work as a sympathy factor in our favour. The people here will think that this government is prejudiced against them and will support the Morcha with more vigour,” he said.
Footballer Bhaichung Bhutia is the Trinamul candidate for Darjeeling. The arrest has come a day after the BJP-Morcha alliance announced S.S. Ahluwalia as its candidate for Darjeeling.
At the height of the latest round of the Gorkhaland agitation in the Darjeeling hills last year, the Trinamul government rounded up around 2,000 Morcha supporters and put them behind bars. Ten GTA Sabha members were also arrested and had to spend their time in jail for weeks.
Hundreds of Morcha workers and leaders have arrest warrants pending against them in connection with the statehood movement. The leaders who could be targeted by the police include Morcha president Bimal Gurung, his wife and GTA member Asha, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri, deputy chief of the GTA Lt Col (retd) Ramesh Allay and chairman of GTA Bhupendra Pradhan.
These leaders were named in the charge-sheet related to an alleged attempt on the life of a body guard of ABGL leader Madan Tamang in 2010.
In this case, Gurung and Asha were denied anticipatory bail by the district and session judge’s court in Darjeeling today. “The case pertains to IPC 307 (attempt to murder) and IPC 353 (preventing a government official from discharging his duties) filed in 2010,” Seshmani Gurung, defence lawyer, said.
These two sections are non-bailable. The duo had moved the court for bail on March 5. Seshmani Gurung said Bimal Gurung, Asha Gurung and other senior leaders had not been named in the FIR. “They were made accused when the charge-sheet was submitted to the court in 2013 and they were termed as absconders,” said the lawyer.
The alleged attack on the body guard took place the day Madan Tamang was hacked to death in Darjeeling on May 21, 2010.
On the denial of bail, Binay Tamang said the Morcha couldn’t comment on a matter, which was “sub judice”.
“The matter is sub judice and we do not want to make any comments,” said Tamang.
Binay Tamang is also an accused in the case, but he has already obtained bail. The defence lawyers have decided to approach the High Court for bail for Gurung and Asha.