BJP backs Bengal’s bifurcation, says TMC after fugitive Gorkha leaders’ photo with J P Nadda goes viral
A widely shared photo on social media of two fugitive Gorkha leaders, Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri who are wanted in 140 cases for violence in Darjeeling, standing beside Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Jagat Prakash Nadda at his son’s marriage last month has sparked a controversy in Bengal.
The photo shows Gurung and Giri, the top leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM)’s pro-BJP faction, standing with Nadda, his son and daughter-in-law. The BJP won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat for the third consecutive time in 2019, thanks to Gurung’s support despite a rival faction of the GJM backing Bengal’s ruling party Trinamool Congress’ (TMC) candidate.
Soon after the photo circulated on social media, the TMC alleged that the BJP was sheltering those wanted by the police for leading a violent statehood movement seeking to carve a separate state of Gorkhaland out of West Bengal.
During the GJM-led statehood agitation in the Darjeeling hills and its foothills in 2017, Gurung and Giri were named in 126 cases under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedures Code and the Arms Act, among others. Besides, Gurung was also named in 14 cases under the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act. Gurung and Giri have been at large for more than two years.
Talking to Hindustan Times over the phone from an undisclosed location, Roshan Giri confirmed the authenticity of the photo. “Yes, I attended the marriage ceremony,” Giri said.
Anand Bhandari, the advocate representing Gurung and Giri in the Calcutta high court, said, “There are altogether 126 anticipatory bail petitions filed in the Calcutta high court and are slated to be listed for hearing onwards March 18. As far as the 14 cases where Gurung is charged with Scheduled Offences under the NIA Act, amongst others, the Supreme Court has passed an order of status quo to be maintained and not to take any coercive action with regard to those 14 cases till further orders.”
The cases in which Gurung is named include the killing of a sub-inspector of police, recovery of explosives, recovery of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and attack on police, among others.
BJP’s Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh defended the duo’s presence at the marriage ceremony. “They are our allies. Even opposition leaders were invited in the marriage ceremony. I did not come across them at the ceremony but what’s wrong if they were there? Merely being an accused did not mean one was guilty. Moreover, all opposition leaders in Bengal are implicated in numerous false faces,” said Ghosh, a Lok Sabha member.
TMC spokesperson Snehasis Chakraborty said that the photo proved how BJP was sheltering people wanted by the police for acts of terrorism. “BJP has proved itself to be hand-in-glove with those trying to bifurcate Bengal,” Chakraborty said.
The demand for Gorkhaland became dormant after the GJM called off a 104-day agitation in September 2017. Gurung and Giri had already gone underground by then. In November 2017, the GJM split with Binoy Tamang heading a rival faction which soon allied with the TMC.
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