Following a period of lull for two weeks after the 104-day-long strike was withdrawn in Darjeeling, violence returned on Friday killing a sub inspector and injuring three others during a crossfire between the security forces and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha factions of Bimal Gurung.
Gurung is the president of the Morcha. Acting on a specific tip off about Gurung’s presence near his residence at Patlebas, security forces were moving towards his operational headquarter, when Gurung’s armed cadres opened fire at the forces, said Anuj Sharma, ADG, Law and Order.
The clashes between the members of GJM and the police continued for hours in the morning after which police raided Gurungs Patlebas residence and recovered six AK 47 rifles, an improvised pistol, 500 rounds of cartridges and explosives, added Sharma at Nabanna.
“We had specific information that Gurung had been camping there. We knew that they had stocked huge cache of arms. But we did not expect such heavy firing. We lost a brave heart like Amitabha Mallick in the firing and three others sustained bullet injuries. Gurung and his cadres fled to Sikkim. In all incidents of violence in Darjeeling, Gurung is directly involved. Since he is cornered in the region, he wants to disturb the process of peace and development in the area,” said the senior police official.
Later, a police vehicle was set on fire. Operations are still on, Sharma added. The clashes began inside a forest at Lepcha Bustee, about 20 km from Darjeeling town. Unconfirmed reports said a few more people could have died in the clashes.
As was predicted earlier by the security agencies, the political unrest in the hills has taken a shape of insurgency like situation. According to Sharma, intelligence reports suggest that Gurung has been in touch with Maoists and other North East-based insurgent groups. Weapons are being procured from them. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee earlier said that the insurgent groups of foreign origin might have supported and sponsored the armed movement of Morcha in the area.
The seizures of sophisticated assault rifles indicate the alarming nature of Darjeeling politics. Apart from murder cases, Gurung has cases of UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) against him.