Oct. 4: A day after the daring daylight murder of dissident Gorkha National Liberation Front leader C.K. Pradhan, police remained clueless about the assailant as Kalimpong stitched itself up in shutdown silence.
Shops, schools, colleges, banks and business establishments remained closed on the second day of the GNLF-sponsored three-day bandh to protest against the killing of Pradhan, popularly known as CK, in the heart of the teeming Kalimpong bazaar. Stranded tourists had a harrowing time in the hotels and resorts throughout the subdivision.
A youth in his twenties had shot the ousted GNLF Kalimpong unit chief from behind and melted into the milling afternoon crowd yesterday.
CK confidants sniffed a conspiracy in the murder at a time when he was planing to float a new political outfit. “CK was on the verge of launching the Gorkha National Liberation Revolutionary Front. He had finished giving final touches to the new outfit,” a CK aide told The Telegraph.
In Calcutta, inspector-general of police (law and order) Chayan Mukherjee said: “The preliminary investigation has revealed Pradhan might have been the victim of growing infighting within the GNLF.”
“We are confident of rounding up the prime suspect in a day or two from the Kalimpong area,” he added.
The police, however, are finding it hard to come across “willing” witnesses to the murder at the market place.
“We are still in the dark about the identity of the assailant. All that we have is his description from a couple of people who are willing to come up with information,” said Darjeeling superintendent of police Sanjay Chander.
“We are following some leads. Raids are being conducted at possible hideouts. The dexterity with which the lone gunman managed to slip out of the area suggests he had a thorough knowledge of the bazaar’s lanes and bylanes. But none of the witnesses recognised him. From the inputs we have received, it seemed the youth was armed with a single-shot pistol that makes little sound,” he added.
Over 500 GNLF supporters were part of a protest procession that snaked through the tourist destination today shouting anti-government slogans and demanding a CBI probe into the incident.
The procession, led by local municipal councillor Mourice Kalikote, started from Eastman Road of the Kalimpong town at around 9.30 am and ended at the mission compound residence of the deceased leader where his body is still being kept for visitors to pay their last respects. The funeral will take place around 10.30 am tomorrow at the Melli burning ghat off National Highway 31A on the banks of the Teesta.
The GNLF has, however, opposed the decision of Pradhan’s supporters to extend the bandh by 24-hours in “public interest”. “Since it is the festive season, we will ask the people not to observe the 24-hour bandh called on Monday by a section of people in Kalimpong,” said the party’s Kalimpong unit chief, Dawa Pakhrin.