A major fire broke out this morning in fugitive GJM chief Bimal Gurung’s village at Patlebas in the restive Darjeeling hills, destroying several houses, many of which belonged to his loyalists, police said. The cause of the fire or casualties due to it are yet to be ascertained and investigations are on.
Of the houses that were gutted, one belonged to Dinesh Thing, believed to be a close associate of Gurung. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief’s house escaped the fire but was vandalised, locals said. The police claimed that the houses were set ablaze by Gurung’s supporters to wipe out evidence. The Gurung supporters, on the other hand, claimed it was the handiwork of the GJM faction loyal to Binay Tamang.
Restrictions have been imposed on entry to the village, a Gurung stronghold, and police are conducting raids in the area. Gurung has been on the run since August after the West Bengal government lodged cases against him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his alleged involvement in several bomb blasts in Darjeeling and adjoining areas.
Additional Director General of Police Siddhinath Gupta said the state police had asked its Sikkim counterpart to intimate them about anyone entering the north-eastern state from Bengal with injuries. A West Bengal police sub-inspector was shot dead and four policemen were injured in a gun battle between the police and Gurung’s supporters near Patlebas on Friday. A few GJM supporters too received injuries in the firing.
The police had gone to the area looking for Gurung, following a specific information that the GJM supremo and those loyal to him were hiding there.