A high-intensity blast shook Darjeeling’s Chowkbazar in the wee hours of Saturday, the first such incident since the indefinite shutdown to press for a separate state of Gorkhaland began in the Hills over two months ago. Following this, police booked Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung and several others under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their alleged involvement in the blast.
This comes hours before one civic police personnel was killed after a grenade was hurled at the Kalimpong police station, Darjeeling Range IG Manoj Verma told PTI late Saturday.
In the Darjeeling blast, though no casualty was reported, police said several shops were destroyed due to the explosion that took place around 12.50 am in front of the old supermarket near Singamari Motor Syndicate in Chowkbazar.
“It was a high-intensity blast… parts of the explosives were found at a distance of 30 to 40 m from the blast spot. Glass windows of a nearby building were damaged. The target seems to have been the police personnel who were patrolling the area. Had this blast taken place during daytime, it would have led to several deaths,” Darjeeling SP Akhilesh Chaturvedi said.
“We have recovered some wires from the spot, which establishes that it was an IED explosion. Prima facie, we suspect that Gorkha leaders, namely Bimal Gurung, Prakash Gurung and Praveen Subba, were behind the explosion. They are basically trying to create panic among the people of Darjeeling,” he added.
A case has been initiated at Sadar police station against Bimal Gurung, Prakash Gurung, Praveen Subba and others under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging war), 121A (attempting to wage war), 122 (collecting arms) of the IPC, Explosive Substance Act, UAPA, West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order Act and Professional Diploma in Public Procurement Act, said Chaturvedi.
“A month ago, a large cache of gelatin sticks was stolen from a hydel power plant in the region… it is being probed if the same explosives were used in the explosion,” he added. A team from the state CID and forensic experts have examined the explosives, said police.
Meanwhile, demanding an NIA probe into the incident, GJM claimed the blast was planned and executed by those who are not in favour of Gorkhaland.
“GJM condemns and protests against the blast that took place in the heart of Darjeeling town. We believe it was the handiwork of those who do not want Gorkhaland state to be formed. This was a planned move aimed at bringing disrepute to the movement and the demand for Gorkhaland,” Bimal Gurung said in a statement.
“While the entire Darjeeling region has been fortified and turned into a garrison of sorts, it is beyond our understanding how a blast could take place in the heart of the city at night, that too around 200 m from the Darjeeling Sadar police station and around 100 m from the office of the deputy superintendent of police. We demand a probe at the earliest by a high-level committee comprising NIA officials under the supervision of the Supreme Court to ensure an unbiased investigation,” he added.
“We will never support any undemocratic means…we condemn the attempt at breaching peace in the Hills and request everyone not to be misled or scared,” the statement said.