Police officer killed, others injured in clashes with Gurung loyalists

Police officer killed, others injured in clashes with Gurung loyalists
A police officer was killed and four others, including two policemen, were injured in an ambush by loyalists of absconding Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung in Darjeeling on Friday.

A police team had reached the jungles of Singla in Sirubari area near Patlebas close to the Bengal-Sikkim border in search of Gurung this morning and as the personnel alighted their vehicles, they came under sudden heavy fire from the adjoining dense forests.

Patlebas is considered a stronghold of Gurung and the headquarters of GJM is also located there.

“Sub-Inspector Amitava Malik succumbed to his injuries when the police team came under heavy fire. We have lost a brave young officer today. The police had specific information that Gurung was hiding in the area and they had gone there prepared. But, the ambush was big. Two other policemen have been injured in the attack. The entire area was cordoned off and an intense search operation was conducted to trace Gurung and his associates,” said ADG (Law and Order), Anuj Sharma.

“The police had retaliated fast. Additional police and central paramilitary forces also reached Patlebas. During a search operation, we have recovered six AK-47 rifles, one 9mm pistol, around 1800 rounds of ammunition, gelatin sticks, bombs and bomb-making equipment. Two police vehicles were also torched by Gurung loyalists,” Sharma said.

The senior officer said police have specific information that Bimal Gurung has direct and close links with Maoists and Northeast insurgent groups and is getting regular support from them,

Darjeeling police said they had information that Gurung and some of his close associates were planning to reach Darjeeling after crossing over from his hideout in neighbouring Sikkim.

“We were tracking the audio messages being circulated by Gurung. They were being handed over to his trusted people in Singmari, Takbhar, Lepcha Bustee, Badamtam and Nimbu Bustee areas. Yesterday we had information about Gurung’s movement and accordingly a raid was conducted in the morning. The first police party leading the raid came under heavy fire from the jungles of Sirubari and also from the Nimbu Bustee hamlet, close to Bengal-Sikkim border. We think Gurung crossed the Rangit River and slipped back in Sikkim amid the chaos and firing. However, the search is on to trace his whereabouts as he is an absconder booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA),” a senior police officer of Darjeeling Range told DHNS.

The officer also said that the police have arrested one person from the area, who has said during interrogation that Bimal Gurung was organising an arms training camp close to Rangit River for the past two months.

In an emergency cabinet meeting convened here, chief minister Mamata Banerjee decided to grant Rs 5 lakh compensation to the family members of the deceased police officer.

“Compensation will be granted as per norms. The chief minister has spoken to the parents of the slain officer. He was very young. His wife will be provided with a job as per police rules. Since his father is also not very old, the education department will offer him a job close to his residence in Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas. The DGP and two cabinet ministers will escort the officer’s body to his residence tomorrow when it arrives from north Bengal,” said education minister Partha Chatterjee.

The issue also figured prominently during a meeting between two rebel GJM leaders and the present chairman and vice-chairman of the Board of Administrators under the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa, with chief minister Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat Nabanna.

Earlier, arriving in Kolkata from Darjeeling, Tamang said they do not want Darjeeling to turn to Kashmir.

"We have always valued peace and do not want Darjeeling hills to turn into another Kashmir. We don't want any unrest, we want peace and are appealing to all to maintain peace in the hills," the BoA chairman said.

Tamang is scheduled to meet the Governor on Sunday, ahead of the third round of talks between the state government and hill parties on October 16.

Expressing concern over the ambush, he said "After today's incident, we think there is virtually no chance of Bimal Gurung returning to Darjeeling. Some of his supporters tried to impose a bandh this morning in the Pedong area but was soon lifted. People are against disruptive politics."

The rebel GJM leader did not dispel West Bengal police's suspicion that Gurung has links with the Maoists and NE insurgent groups.

The Centre has also formed a committee to coordinate with the hill parties and the West Bengal government before convening a tripartite meeting on the issues related to Darjeeling hills.

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