A sub-inspector was killed and four policemen were injured today when alleged supporters of GJM chief Bimal Gurung fired at them at a forest area near here where Gurung was suspected to be hiding.
Siddhinath Gupta, additional director general of police, said West Bengal police sub-inspector Amitabha Malik was killed and four police personnel were severely injured after supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) fired at a police party on the lookout for Gurung.
The GJM claimed three of its supporters were killed in police firing. The police did not comment on this.
Additional director general (law and order) Anuj Sharma told reporters in Kolkata that the police had specific information that Gurung and the group loyal to him were hiding near Patlebas, a stronghold of the GJM chief.
At 5 am, the search party raided the hideout inside the forest, he said, alleging that the police was then fired at by GJM supporters.
ADG Sharma said the police, which faced “heavy fire power” from the group, retaliated.
Six AK-47 rifles, one 9mm pistol, 500 rounds of ammunition and bombs had been recovered from the spot, he added.
He said the police had gathered information of Gurung’s links with Maoists and other rebel groups in the North East.
“Gurung has procured arms from them,” he said.
The GJM leader was in hiding in neighbouring Sikkim and had tried to enter the Darjeeling hills today, Sharma said, adding that he was now trying to get back to Sikkim.
The ADG said a cornered Gurung, who has lost mass support in recent times, was trying to foment trouble in the hills.
“We will not allow this to happen at any cost, even if we have to make sacrifices,” he said.
Expelled GJM leader and chairman of the Board of Administrators for Darjeeling hills, Binay Tamang, said Gurung was responsible for today’s events.
“We don’t want the Darjeeling hills to become another Kashmir,” he told reporters in Kolkata.
Those who fired at the police should be given strict punishment, he said.
State tourism minister Gautam Deb said the state government was determined to establish peace in the Darjeeling hills.
The West Bengal government will do all that is necessary to arrest Gurung, he added.
Gurung has been in hiding since August after cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act were registered against him for his alleged involvement in several bomb blasts in Darjeeling and adjoining areas.
This is the first such incident of violence after the 104-day long indefinite shutdown in the hills was called off on September 26 by Gurung following an appeal by Union home minister Rajnath Singh.
The GJM is an ally of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).