A police officer has been shot dead in Darjeeling as a hail of gunfire erupted between police and suspected gunmen loyal to Bimal Gurung, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader who is on the run.
Early this morning, a huge police force marched to Tubgar forest, some 20 kilometres from Darjeeling town, based on intelligence inputs that Mr Gurung was in the area.
He is wanted by the police for charges including murder and sedition. He was reported to be hiding in Sikkim.
As the police personnel neared the forest, they were fired upon, after which they fired back. Assistant Sub-Inspector Amitabh Mallik was hit in the gunfire while two policemen were injured. Police say some of Mr Gurung’s men have been injured too.
“We mourn the death of our brave heart,” senior police officer Anuj Sharma told reporters.
Police found 6 AK-47 assault rifles, a 9 millimetre pistol and 500 rounds of ammunition at the place where the gunfight took place.
The police launched operations to find Mr Gurung after he sent out an audio message yesterday, saying he would return to Darjeeling on October 30 and asked people to turn out in large numbers to meet him.
Mr Gurung’s group has now fled towards neighbouring Sikkim, Mr Sharma said. They also set a police vehicle on fire. “Darjeeling is peaceful, but some people want to create trouble,” Mr Sharma said.
“Bimal Gurung is cornered. He has no base and is trying to create trouble in Dar and Kalimpong,” the police officer said, adding arson and bombings have been carried out under Mr Gurung’s leadership. “We have information that Gurung has links with Maoists and north-east militant groups.”
On September 20, the West Bengal government announced the constitution of a nine-member board of administrators with the same powers as Gorkhaland Territorial Administration.
The move can be construed as a major blow to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung who has been spearheading the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland state for over three months