Cop killed in raid on Gurung

Police claim seizure of stockpile of weapons from jungle camp

By Vivek Chhetri in Darjeeling
  • Published 14.10.17

Darjeeling, Oct. 13: A gunfight killed a cop when Bengal police today raided a jungle camp allegedly housing Bimal Gurung and his cadres, who fled across a river and may be hiding in Sikkim, officials said.

The police arrested one alleged inmate and claimed to have seized a stockpile of arms, including nine AK-47s, one Beretta, a .22-bore musket, 20 gelatin sticks, 1,800 bullets, 1,000 detonators, a binocular and a manpack radio.

Officers said they had information that the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief was hiding at the camp, set on the banks of the Little Rangeet, 20km from Darjeeling and 7km downhill from Barnesbeg tea garden near the Sikkim border. With him were purported cadres of the Gorkhaland Personnel, a Morcha volunteer force.

Gurung, on the run and facing terror charges for the violence during the recent hill agitation, had yesterday promised a public appearance on October 30.

"A raid party led by officers Nagendra Tripathi and Rahul Pandey reached there. There was an exchange of fire in which sub-inspector Amitabha Malik was martyred," Darjeeling SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi said.

Police sources said the raiding team had left Darjeeling around 2am and reached Barnesbeg around 3am, and had to walk two hours to the camp. Apparently caught by surprise, the inmates started crossing the knee-deep river.

"As Malik and some other cops waded into the river to give chase, there was firing from the other bank. Malik was hit in the head and died on the spot," a source said.

Officers said the gun battle lasted an hour. The cops could catch just one man but claim to have seen "a blood trail" on the other bank, suggesting injuries to some of the cadres.

Sources said the arrested man had admitted that Gurung had been at the camp for the past one month, and also spilled some other names. "We found documents too," Chaturvedi said.

The bloodshed and the reported arms haul are expected to undermine Gurung's claim that his movement is peaceful. The implications of the threat of an armed struggle are likely to strengthen the hands of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, whose tough stand seems to have paid off so far.

Morcha rebel Binay Tamang, who arrived from Darjeeling for "prescheduled" talks with Mamata today, appealed for peace in the hills and hoped the police would catch those responsible for the violence. He believes that "after today, Gurung has virtually no chance of returning to Darjeeling" whose people are against "disruption".

Nabanna sources said Gurung could be arrested soon. "He has lost support and Tamang has emerged as the new hills leader; so, Gurung may not get shelter in the hills now," an official said.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri alleged the raid was an attempt to derail any talks with the Centre and that the arms may have been planted.