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Bandh returns to Kalimpong as GJM councillor dies in judicial custody

Barun Bhujel was arrested on charges of arson and rioting on June 16.

kolkata Updated: Oct 25, 2017 13:39 IST
Barun Bhujel was a two-time councillor of Kalimpong municipality.(HT Photo)

Bandh returned to Kalimpong in the north Bengal hills on Wednesday as the news of death of a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha councillor, Barun Bhujel, in judicial custody in a Kolkata hospital, travelled to the hills that is trying to return to normalcy after a record 104 days of shutdown.

Bhujel died in SSKM Hospital in the wee hours of Wednesday.

Read: Hills on the edge: Police excesses have reopened Darjeeling’s old wounds

Shops were closed and the streets were empty in Kalimpong town on Wednesday. The bandh was observed as common people paid their last respect at Damber Chowk where Bhujel’s photo was kept.

Though Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung urged the people of the Darjeeling hills to observe a one-day bandh, Kalimpong went into the shutdown mode on its own. However, the bandh call had no effect on other parts of the hills like Darjeeling and Kurseong.

Councillor of ward number 16 of Kalimpong Municipality, Bhujel was taken to Kolkata and admitted to SSKM three days ago. Earlier, he was admitted in North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) in Siliguri, where his health condition had deteriorated.

Read: 100 days of Darjeeling shutdown: A tale of survival and ordeal

He was arrested on June 16 on charges of arson and rioting and was in jail for more than four months.

“My brother was tortured by police immediately after his arrest and was taken to Siliguri. At NBMCH he was chained and kept like a dog. The police did not honour the request of the family members for better treatment elsewhere,” alleged Biren Bhujel, the younger brother of the councillor.

Superintendent of police in Darjeeling district, Akhilesh Chaturvedi, did not take calls. However, Manimoy Bandpadhyay, superintendent, SSKM Hospital told the media that Bhujel was suffering from ailments of the liver and pancreas. “When he was brought to SSKM hospital, his condition was very bad. He was admitted to the ICU,” said Bandpadhyay. Post mortem examination will be conducted.

In an audio message sent from his hideout, Gurung also claimed that Bhujel was tortured by police after he refused to join Trinamool Congress and the Binoy Tamang-Anit Thapa faction of the GJM.

Bhujel was a resident of Kalimpong. The two-time GJM councillor was popular among local residents. He is survived by two children and parents. His father served in the Indian Army for 38 years and his elder brother is in the Eastern Frontier Rifles.

First Published: Oct 25, 2017 13:39 IST