No casualty on Gurung's side, says leader

Morcha chief 'was not present' during raid

By Vivek Chhetri in Darjeeling
  • Published 15.10.17

Amitabha’s mother and (above) wife break down in Madhyamgram on Saturday. Pictures by Sanjib Chaki

Darjeeling, Oct. 14: A leader in the Bimal Gurung camp of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today said there were no deaths other than that of a police officer in the gunfight that took place yesterday and added that the party chief was not present in the area when the raid took place.

The claim comes on a day speculation has been rife on social media about deaths in the Gurung lobby in the gun battle near the Little Rangeet river, where police officer Amitabha Malik was killed.

"There were no casualties on Gurung's side. Everyone is fine. Even he is fine. In fact, he was not present in the area when the incident took place," the leader said.

Although the Morcha leader declined to elaborate if there were any injuries, he admitted that some party cadres were staying in the camp and were caught by "surprise" when the police raided the area.

"They were not aware of the police raid," he said.

Even the police were not sure of casualties or injuries on the "other" side. Darjeeling police chief Akhilesh Chaturvedi had said yesterday that blood stains were seen at the spot.

The raid yesterday had followed information that Gurung, who has several criminal cases against him, was hiding in the camp, situated about 20km from Darjeeling near the Sikkim border.

The police had claimed to have arrested one person from the camp and seized a stockpile of arms, including nine AK-47s, one Beretta, a 0.22-bore musket, 20 gelatine sticks, 1,800 bullets, 1,000 detonators, a binocular and a manpack radio. Police officials maintain that this is one of the biggest arms hauls in the state in recent memory.

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

Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh today said the arms haul was "suspect".

"How does one know that the arms were found there? All of this sounds quite suspect.... This is the ruling establishment's version," said Ghosh. "Mamata Banerjee is trying to brand Gurung as a terrorist, have him sidelined and eventually murdered."

Reacting to Ghosh's remarks, Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said: "Those who raise doubts are a threat to the state and the nation's internal security."

During the day, members of the Binay Tamang camp in the Morcha plastered posters in Kalimpong saying there would be no "bandh" in the hills and that they believed in achieving Gorkhaland through democratic means.

"Do not turn the peaceful hills into Kashmir, do not taint the patriotic Gorkhas as terrorists," the posters read.

The state child rights commission today issued a notice to Gurung asking him to appear before it in Calcutta on October 23 for allegedly using schoolchildren in political rallies during school hours.

The commission said that Gurung had earlier failed to appear before them, following which it had directed the state government to draw up criminal proceedings against him.

"Kindly note that if you do not comply with this requirement, you will be liable to all the legal consequences of ignoring directions of a lawful authority of competent jurisdiction," stated the October 10 order.

Delhi tapped

Sources said the Bengal government had taken up issue with Delhi to ensure that Gurung did not get any sympathy from a section of the BJP's national leadership.

They said the state had already sent the details of yesterday's incident to the Centre and had described vividly how Gurung's associates had opened fire on the police and their alleged links with extremist groups of the Northeast.