KOLKATA: Senior Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leader Barun Bhujel died in police custody at the state-run SSKM hospital in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Bhujel, who was arrested in June was effectively in police custody after being denied bail and had been shifted from Jalpaiguri Prison to the government hospital two days ago.
"Bhujel had chronic liver problem and pancreatitis. He died early today. A post-mortem is being done", Manimoy Bandyopadhyay, superintendent of SSKM hospital said.
Superintendent of police, Kalimpong, Ajit Yadav said that Bhujel, a GJM Councillor from Kalimpong, was arrested on June 16 for his alleged involvement in arson and violence in the hills.
"He was in judicial custody. For the last one month, he had complained about problems of the liver and the pancreas. He was admitted to North Bengal Medical College. Last week he was taken to Kolkata and was admitted to SSKM for treatment. Now the actual reason for his death will be known after post-mortem," Yadav said.
The senior GJM leader's younger brother Biren Bhujel claimed that Barun Bhujel was in good health condition when he was arrested in mid-June. He alleged that Barun Bhujel was subjected to mental and physical torture in custody and denied medical attention when needed.
"He was kept in custody for over four months and his health started deteriorating since the past two weeks. Despite repeated pleas, he was not granted bail and additional charges slapped against him. Even after his condition got critical, Barun Bhujel was denied by police to be taken to hospital and only as he approached his end, he was allowed to be taken to Kolkata," Biren Bhujel said. However, the Bhujel family is yet to approach the State Human Rights Commission over the alleged human rights violation.
While GJM supremo Bimal Gurung called for shutdown after Barun Bhujel's death, Kalimpong town — where Bhujel was a municipal commissioner —downed the shutters of the shops after news of his death reached them. The shutdown of Kalimpong is likely to continue till Thursday 6 am.
Barun was one of the first to be arrested by police. We express our condolences. He gave his life to the fight for Gorkhaland. It was police torture and deliberate negligence in his treatment which ultimately led to his death- Bimal Gurung.