Supporters of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung on Friday reclaimed the party office in Kalimpong, two days after GJM councillor Barun Bhujel died at SSKM Hospital in Kolkata while in judicial custody. On October 7, loyalists of the Binay Tamang faction of GJM captured the Kalimpong GJM office and removed Gurung’s picture from the walls. The move was symbolic of the rise of Tamang, who was made the head of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) by the state government on September 20.
Gurung supporters put up a picture of the leader inside the office, and displayed flags with the GJM chief’s picture on top of the building. They chanted pro-Gurung slogans and claimed Tamang was “betraying” the movement for the formation of a separate Gorkhaland. Bhujel (40), who was arrested in June during the 104-day indefinite strike in the Hills, passed away at SSKM Hospital on Wednesday. His family members later wrote to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), demanding a probe into his death. They alleged that police brutality and delay in treatment led to Bhujel’s death.
Gurung was quick to condone the leader’s death, and asked people to hit the streets. On Thursday, Bhujel’s body arrived in Kalimpong, where hundreds paid their last respects to the leader. Almost all shops in the area have remained closed for the last two days. “Our brother Barun was one of the first to be arrested by police from Kalimpong. I mourn his death and respect his supreme sacrifice for the fight for Gorkhaland. I give my condolences to his family members. It was police torture which ultimately led to his death,” Gurung said on Wednesday, in an audio message from an undisclosed location.
“I call upon all Gorkha brothers and sisters to hit the streets in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Terai and Dooars. Gorkhas all over should protest against such human rights violations. I appeal to everyone to observe a day of mourning and shutdown,” said Gurung.
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