Kalimpong, Oct. 3: Dissident Gorkha National Liberation Front leader Chandra Kumar Pradhan was shot dead in Kalimpong this afternoon by a lone assassin. The murder brought normal life to a grinding halt in the town and triggered tension in the Darjeeling subdivision.
Pradhan, an executive councillor for backward community welfare in the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council and a friend-turned-foe of DGHC chief Subash Ghising, was walking to the Darwadara market from Damber Chowk when he was shot in the back from point-blank range by a young man. He was rushed to the sub-divisional hospital, where doctors declared him dead on arrival.
The 50-year-old leader is survived by his wife, twin daughters and a son. One of his daughters got married last Monday.
Condemning the killing, the GNLF has called a 72-hour strike in Kalimpong starting this evening. Immediately after the incident, normal life was thrown out of gear as shops and utility services closed down. Shocked people poured out on the streets.
“Daju (elder brother) was coming to the point at Darwadara where the road bifurcates and had stopped to talk to me. We were in the middle of a conversation, when he made a noise and collapsed,” said Manik Sarkar, who still had bloodstains on his white shirt. “We saw the assassin, a youth of about 20, running away with a gun. He vanished towards Relli Road.”
Sarkar, who owns a shop near the assassination spot, and a few other witnesses claimed the killer was not a local youth. “I saw his face once when he turned back before fleeing and I rushed after him. But he fled and we took Daju, who was bleeding profusely after collapsing on a staircase, to the hospital,” said Sarkar.
Darjeeling superintendent of police Sanjay Chander, who rushed to Kalimpong, said the situation was under control. “The area has been cordoned off and heavy deployment of security forces has taken place throughout the sub-division. There has been no incident of violence till now.”
He confirmed that the assassin was a young man in his early twenties, who fired only one round and fled after the operation.
Around 3.30 pm, Pradhan’s wife Shila came out of the hospital, wailing that Ghising was behind the murder. Pradhan had fallen out with Ghising after the attempt on the DGHC chairman’s life last year in which the former’s hand was suspected.