Darjeeling, March 14: Bimal Darjee, a central committee member of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, was arrested today in connection with old cases related to the statehood agitation.
The arrest has raised fears among Morcha leaders that Mamata Banerjee would launch another crackdown on the outfit in the wake of its support to the BJP candidate in Darjeeling.
The Morcha suffered another blow today when a Darjeeling court denied anticipatory bail to GTA Sabha chief Bimal Gurung and his wife Asha in an attempt-to-murder case of 2010.
Darjee was picked up from his house at Tindharia, 30km from Kurseong, around 3am. He is one of the prominent leaders of the Morcha in the area.
Akhilesh Chaturvedi, the superintendent of police, Darjeeling, said: “The arrest has been made as there were pending warrants against him.”
He couldn’t immediately recollect the cases. However, sources said Darjee had five pending warrants against him registered since 2007.
According to the sources, the cases included a bid to burn down a forest bungalow at Mahanadi on February 8, 2011 and an attempt on life of ex-GNLF leader I.N. Pradhan on September 11, 2009.
Other cases were in connection with road blockade and obstacle in the duty of government staff among others.
Darjee, 54, was produced in the additional chief judicial magistrate’s court in Kurseong and was remanded in jail custody till March 18.
Binay Tamang, assistant secretary of the Morcha, said the party had apprehended arrests ahead of the polls. “For so long, he (Darjee) had not been arrested but he was suddenly arrested today. This is something we had anticipated. The Trinamul Congress might be thinking that the party will benefit in the elections by arresting Morcha leaders but on the contrary, such a move will only motivate our supporters to defeat anti-Gorkhaland forces.”
Tamang also said when the GTA agreement had been signed, the state government had agreed to withdraw all cases, except murder.
A Morcha leader who refused to be named was more forthcoming. “The arrest has raised fears of a fresh crackdown on the Morcha, this time for having an alliance with the BJP.”
Another leader of the Morcha said if the arrests continued, then it would have a “negative impact” on Trinamul in the Darjeeling hills. “This will work as a sympathy factor in our favour. The people here will think that this government is prejudiced against them and will support the Morcha with more vigour,” he said.
Footballer Bhaichung Bhutia is the Trinamul candidate for Darjeeling. The arrest has come a day after the BJP-Morcha alliance announced S.S. Ahluwalia as its candidate for Darjeeling.
At the height of the latest round of the Gorkhaland agitation in the Darjeeling hills last year, the Trinamul government rounded up around 2,000 Morcha supporters and put them behind bars. Ten GTA Sabha members were also arrested and had to spend their time in jail for weeks.
Hundreds of Morcha workers and leaders have arrest warrants pending against them in connection with the statehood movement. The leaders who could be targeted by the police include Morcha president Bimal Gurung, his wife and GTA member Asha, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri, deputy chief of the GTA Lt Col (retd) Ramesh Allay and chairman of GTA Bhupendra Pradhan.
These leaders were named in the charge-sheet related to an alleged attempt on the life of a body guard of ABGL leader Madan Tamang in 2010.
In this case, Gurung and Asha were denied anticipatory bail by the district and session judge’s court in Darjeeling today. “The case pertains to IPC 307 (attempt to murder) and IPC 353 (preventing a government official from discharging his duties) filed in 2010,” Seshmani Gurung, defence lawyer, said.
These two sections are non-bailable. The duo had moved the court for bail on March 5. Seshmani Gurung said Bimal Gurung, Asha Gurung and other senior leaders had not been named in the FIR. “They were made accused when the charge-sheet was submitted to the court in 2013 and they were termed as absconders,” said the lawyer.
The alleged attack on the body guard took place the day Madan Tamang was hacked to death in Darjeeling on May 21, 2010.
On the denial of bail, Binay Tamang said the Morcha couldn’t comment on a matter, which was “sub judice”.
“The matter is sub judice and we do not want to make any comments,” said Tamang.
Binay Tamang is also an accused in the case, but he has already obtained bail. The defence lawyers have decided to approach the High Court for bail for Gurung and Asha.
Court rejects Gurung’s anticipatory bail plea
DARJEELING: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has cried foul over the arrest of one of its central committee leaders from Kurseong on Friday, the same day when a Darjeeling court rejected the anticipatory bail plea of party chief Bimal Gurung and his wife Asha in the Madan Tamang murder case.
Bimal Darjee, GJM central committee member and one of the founding leaders, was arrested from his house at Tindharia in Kurseong subdivision early Friday morning. Binay Tamang, the GJM assistant secretary, said it was the ploy of the state government to create panic in the Hills ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. “The intention of the state is to ensure smooth sailing for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the LS polls,” he said.
On the other hand, the district and sessions court in Darjeeling rejected the anticipatory bail plea of the GJM president and his wife. “The bail plea of Gurung and his wife Asha was rejected by judge Ananta Kumar Kapri. The government prosecutor opposed the bail plea as it wanted to give a message that nobody was above the law and everyone had to abide by it,” said Pranay Rai, the public prosecutor (PP).
The PP said the GJM president had applied for an anticipatory bail on March 5 before the election code of conduct was enforced and the final hearing was on Friday. “Now that their bail plea has been rejected the only option available with them is to knock on the high court doors,” said Rai.
According to the PP, 36 GJM leaders and activists were named in an FIR filed by Mahesh Thakuri, the police constable appointed to guard All India Gorkha League (AIGL) president Madan Tamang who was murdered in the broad daylight on May 21, 2010, in Darjeeling. Thakuri was also shot on the leg on that day but survived. He had lodged a complaint against Gurung and his wife and 34 others.
Meanwhile, Binay Tamang also said they had an intuition that something like this was on its way given the attitude of the state government. “We knew something like this was on its way. However, such arrests will definitely backfire on Trinamool. We will write to the Election Commission of India and apprise them of the arrest,” he said.
Darjee was produced before the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) court on Friday but his bail was rejected and he will have to appear for a hearing on March 19. He has been booked under various non-bailable sections. Akhilesh Chaturvedi, the Darjeeling SP, refused to elaborate but confirmed the arrest of the GJM central committee leader. “There are several pending warrants for which we are trying to make the arrests. Today’s arrest is also one of them,” he said. Police said there are more than 600 pending arrest warrants.
In the Tamang murder case, seven people are out on bail, while eighteen are still lodged in a Kolkata correctional home. Of the remaining eleven, one person died under mysterious circumstances, while Nicole Tamang, a central committee leader, managed to flee during an interrogation from a government guesthouse in Siliguri in 2010.
The others named in the FIR include GJM general secretary Roshan Giri, Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chettri, GTA Sabha chairman Bhupendra Pradhan and GTA deputy chief executive Colonel (retired) Ramesh Allay, Babita Ganguly, Dinesh Subba and Sangey Yolmo. Giri will have to appear before the court on March 19 as his anticipatory bail plea was also rejected.
Dinesh Chandra Rai, the defence counsel for Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, said that he would move the high court.
“Since the bail plea was rejected, we will approach the high court after the polls,” he said.
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