Absconding GJM President Bimal Gurung’s Name Removed From Darjeeling Voters’ List

Both Gurung and GJM general secretary Roshan Giri have been in hiding ever since the Mamata Banerjee government began its crackdown on the 105-day-long strike in Darjeeling seeking separate statehood in June 2017.

New Delhi: The names of the absconding Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) president Bimal Gurung and general secretary Roshan Giri have been struck off the electoral list of West Bengal along with their family members.

As per news reports quoting senior Darjeeling administration officials, the election office at Darjeeling had sent summons to the residences of over 100 people, including the two GJM leaders and their families after their representatives visiting their homes in the hill town during the verification of the voters’ list of the constituency found them absent. Officials said while those who presented themselves at the local election office following the summons found their names in the revised voters’ list, these two families failed to turn up, leading to the poll office striking off their names.    

Media reports quoting district officials said the decision was taken as per the Election Commission of India (ECI) rules, which states that if a person is dead, absconding or does not reside in a residential address for more than six months, his/her name will be removed from the electoral list during its revision. Such persons are sent notices to present themselves before striking off their names.

Both Gurung and Giri have been in hiding ever since the Mamata Banerjee government began its crackdown on the 105-day-long strike in Darjeeling seeking separate statehood in June 2017. The GJM leaders face a volley of charges, including murder, under IPC and the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act (UAPA). West Bengal Police have been on their look out since. This past March, the Supreme Court dismissed Gurung’s plea for relief from arrest through a petition in which he claimed that he was being politically persecuted by the state government.

While some media reports said Gurung and Giri have been hiding in neighbouring Sikkim, latest reports quoting Darjeeling district administration said the duo are in Nepal.

The GJM led Gorkhaland agitation affected normal life in the Darjeeling hills and neighbouring Sikkim for months in 2017. Credit: PTI

The revision of the voters’ list is reportedly being done to hold the pending elections to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). Even though the term of the GTA expired in August last year, a breakaway faction of GJM, led by Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa, is heading it. It was as per a decision taken by the state chief minister in September last year to form a new body named Board of Administration for Darjeeling Hill Districts with Tamang as its chairman and Thapa its vice chairman.

With Gurung and Giri’s names struck off the voters’ list, it is unlikely that they would not be able to contest the elections. Many in Darjeeling, who took part in the popular strike led by Gurung, feel that the state government is using the rule to “target” the Gorkhaland agitation leaders.

Reacting to the news on July 3 in a press note from his undisclosed hideout, Gurung said the selective removal of their names from the state’s electoral rolls by the government by “using dubious and vague means goes against the very ethos and essence of our democracy”.

Stating that “we will fight against this illegal attempt at subverting democracy though the courts”, he urged “the people (of Darjeeling) to unite and speak out against the dictatorship”.