Darjeeling: As many as four houses were destroyed in a deadly fire in Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung's neighbourhood in Darjeeling's Patlebas, police said on Sunday.
"Gurung's house and the party office were not destroyed in the fire. The fire engulfed five houses opposite Gurung's residence," said Inspector General of Police, Darjeeling, Manoj Verma.
The gutted residences belonged to Gurung's supporters Dinesh Thing, Rajesh Thing, Prabin Subba, and Amit Chand.
Police said the fire broke out around midnight on Saturday and was brought under control around 3 am, adding the cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained.
Eyewitnesses said Gurung's house was later vandalised.
While police claimed the fire could have been a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence against Gurung and his loyalists, pro-Gurung leaders, however, blamed associates of Darjeeling Board of Administrators (BoA) chairman and expelled GJM leader Binay Tamang for the incident.
Speaking to reporters in Kolkata, Tamang demanded a thorough investigation into the Patlebas fire, and urged police not to round up innocent people.
Gurung has been on the run for quite some time, with the state police slapping cases against him under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, as also for waging war against the government and organising terrorist camps.
The GJM, that has been spearheading the revived movement of Gorkhaland in the hills, is now a divided house, with a section of activists remaining with Gurung while another faction has shifted allegiance towards Tamang.
The fire happened soon after Friday's clashes between security forces and pro-Gurung GJM workers that left a Police Sub-Inspector dead and four other cops injured. Police had raided the area after a tip-off that the GJM chief was camping along with boys of the party's militant wing Gorkhaland Personnel, on a river bed close by.
Police recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition from the camp and arrested one person but the GJM chief and his associates managed to flee to the neighbouring state of Sikkim.
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Updated Date: Oct 15, 2017 22:25:38 IST