West Bengal

Arrest in the hills

Print edition : April 03, 2015

Pradip Pradhan, GJM leader. Photo: V. Sudershan

THE Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) faced a major embarrassment when, on March 3, the police arrested Pradip Pradhan, the party’s vice-president and chairman of the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) Sabha (the statutory elected autonomous body looking after the administration in the Darjeeling Hills), on the charge of trying to sell fake antiques.

Pradhan and a few of his party members were arrested from a hotel in Siliguri on a complaint from a businessman, Rabi Kirtanya, who alleged that Pradhan and 10 others had sold him antique coins that an expert later found to be fake. Kirtanya had paid Rs.50,000 in advance for the coins whose value was pegged at Rs.13 lakh. Pradhan spent five days in custody before a district court gave him bail.

The GJM leadership was quick to suggest that it was a conspiracy at a time when the party was planning a fresh agitation in New Delhi for a separate Gorkhaland. “This clearly looks like a frame-up. The arrest of Pradip Pradhan is an attempt to scuttle our agitation programme for Gorkhaland in New Delhi,” said GJM general secretary Roshan Giri.

However, party supremo and chief executive of the GTA, Bimal Gurung, was more cautious. “We will have to ascertain the truth. If the arrest is politically motivated, I will take necessary steps,” he said.

This is the second time in less than four months that the GJM was left red-faced owing to the activities of its members. In November last year, a group of GJM cadres led by Sanjay Rai Thulung, GTA sabhasad (elected representative of the GTA Sabha), were involved in an arms smuggling case on the Bengal-Assam border. Thulung, who gave the police the slip, remains untraceable. The opposition parties in the Darjeeling Hills have used the incident to attack the GJM. “The GJM comprises frauds and anti-national people. The State government should take steps and not keep silence for political reasons,” said Pratap Khati, leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL). The ABGL has demanded that Bimal Gurung be questioned. “Nothing within the GJM fold takes place without Bimal Gurung’s knowledge,” said Khati.

The Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) leader J.B. Rai said, “They are saying it is a conspiracy, but there is something fishy within the GJM.”

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay