The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha called for a fresh shutdown in the Darjeeling hills after its leader and Kalimpong councillor Barun Bhujel died early on Wednesday at a hospital, four months after he was arrested during the agitation demanding a separate state. The shutdown, however, was limited to Kalimpong, the Hindustan Times reported.
Bhujel’s family and the Gorkha body have alleged that he died because of negligence and torture by authorities while he was in prison in Siliguri. He was arrested on June 16 on charges of arson and rioting.
“My brother was tortured by the police immediately after his arrest and was taken to Siliguri,” his brother Biren Bhujel claimed. “He was chained and kept like a dog. The police did not honour the family’s request for better treatment elsewhere.”
The hospital said Bhujel had a chronic liver problem and pancreatitis, and that an autopsy was being carried out.
GJM chief Bimal Gurung alleged police torture and asked people to protest in the streets. He also asked them to observe a day of mourning and for schools and colleges to be shut.
Darjeeling and the adjacent hill districts returned to normalcy after Gurung, on September 26, called off the strike 104 days after the group revived its agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland. On Wednesday, Gurung said Bhujel was one of the first leaders to be arrested by the police during the agitation.