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1 Dead After Bengal Police Raid Secret Gorkha Morcha Meeting In Sikkim

Kolkata:  In a scene akin to an American Wild West film, Bengal police officers dressed in plainclothes crossed over from Darjeeling in Bengal to Namchi in Sikkim pretending to be tourists. Fully armed, the officers raided a secret meeting of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha or GJM, the political party spearheading the movement for a separate state – Gorkhaland.

They arrested at least nine political activists at the meeting but many including the head of the Morcha, Bimal Gurung, fled. His relative, who was the driver of one of the political leaders expected at the meeting, couldn’t get away. He was shot dead, allegedly by these police personnel.

West Bengal police could only confirm the nine arrests, saying it had put out lookout notices for Bimal Gurung, GJM’s general secretary Roshan Giri and its youth leader Prasant Gurung. Their photos will be put up at airports and railway stations to make it difficult for them to travel.

But the Bengal police team too is headed for trouble.

Sikkim police have filed a complaint against their counterparts from Bengal. South Sikkim police chief Pratap Pradhan told news agency Press Trust of India that an FIR had been registered against those who killed the GJM supporter in “cold blood”. Bengal police have also been told that it cannot take away the people arrested by them unless they “get a court order,” Mr Pradhan added.

The controversy comes 80 days after shutdown began in Darjeeling and three days after Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met Morcha’s Benoy Tamang in Kolkata along with other hill party representatives minus its chief Bimal Gurung.

She ostensibly offered an olive branch to the Morcha but many believe that Ms Banerjee has effectively driven a wedge between Mr Tamang and Bimal Gurung, both founder members of the Morcha.

The meeting resulted in an ugly fallout between Mr Gurung and Mr Tamang. After the Mamata meeting, on Wednesday, Mr Tamang announced the indefinite shutdown or bandh in Darjeeling would be temporarily lifted from September 1 till September 12.

Bimal Gurung reacted angrily to the announcement. From a hideaway, possibly in Sikkim, he sent out a video message saying Mr Tamang was committing treachery against the Gorkhaland cause.

On Friday, hundreds of people came on to the streets of Darjeeling slamming Mr Tamang and demanding continuation of the bandh. They also called for Mr Gurung to lead the movement and achieve Gorkhaland. Everything in Darjeeling remained shut.

Mr Tamang ended up locked up in his Darjeeling home guarded with tight police security. Last evening, he put out a statement accusing Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri, the two most visible faces of the movement, of sending off their families abroad or out of Darjeeling so they could pursue normals lives while putting the lives of thousands of ordinary people out on a limb.

The Morcha was reported to have held a meeting despite the police raid and decided to expel Benoy Tamang.

What happens in the coming days could determine Darjeeling’s fortunes. At the moment, they appear bleak.