Kolkata: Barun Bhujel, an elected member of Kalimpong municipality and a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) activist, on Wednesday died in judicial custody at a Kolkata hospital, a few days after he was moved from another hospital in Siliguri.

His brother Biren Bhujel and GJM president Bimal Gurung alleged that Barun Bhujel was a victim of police atrocities. He was arrested on 16 June on charges of arson. The police didn’t inform the family about Barun Bhujel’s deteriorating health, alleged his brother.

Two state government officers said he had pre-existing health conditions at the time of his arrest, and that he died due to complications that arose from them. These Darjeeling district officials asked not to be identified.

Immediately after he was declared dead, fugitive leader Gurung released a recorded statement asking the people of Darjeeling and Kalimpong to mourn the death of Barun Bhujel and observe a day’s strike in protest. Life in Kalimpong was disrupted but Darjeeling was largely unaffected.

Binay Tamang, the dissident GJM leader now calling the shots in Darjeeling, mourned the death of his party colleague and demanded an independent probe.

Meanwhile, the Centre filed an affidavit in the Calcutta high court on Wednesday, saying that the judiciary could not decide on deployment of central forces. The court had last week stayed the Centre’s decision to partially withdraw central forces from Darjeeling.

The Centre said in its affidavit that there are no “standards" on the basis of which a court could decide on deployment of forces, and that it was in the “exclusive domain of the central government" to decide where forces are to be sent. “There is no yardstick by which the court could assess the need for deployment of central police forces," the Centre said.

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