Obituary: Camden’s first Bengali mayor, who fought British rule in India, has died aged 91

Ranjan Bhattacharya with a photo of his father Raman when he was Mayor of Camden circa 1993. Picture

Ranjan Bhattacharya with a photo of his father Raman when he was Mayor of Camden circa 1993. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Camden’s first Bengali mayor Ramen Bhattacharya, who was jailed three times for his political activism in India, has died aged 91.

Mr Bhattacharya, who lived at Rathmore House care home in Belsize Park, first served as a Labour councillor for Kilburn in 1988 before being elected as mayor in 1993.

The eldest son of a large family, he was born in 1921 in Cooch Behar, in India, to Bengali parents.

As a student, he was one of the first lay members of India’s Revolutionary Socialist Party and was sent to prison three times for leading protests and circulating literature calling for independence from the British.

On one occasion he narrowly escaped arrest when he hid in his aunt’s home.

His uncle, who worked for the British CID, was not allowed to catch his nephew because his wife did not allow politics in the house.

In 1945, Mr Bhattacharya was one of the students leading a protest against the execution of Indian Army mutinees, which was eventually stopped by a personal appeal from Mahatma Ghandi.

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With a large family to support, Mr Bhattacharya took a position teaching English and maths in Uganda where he became involved in the African country’s own independence struggle.

On moving to London in 1966, he took his first job working as a foreman in a handbag factory in Wandsworth before teaching children with learning difficulties at schools in Baham and Tower Hamlets.

In 1984 he moved to Antrim Mansions in Belsize Park and two years later, having retired from teaching, entered local politics.

But even after he stopped being a councillor in 1994, Mr Bhattacharya continued campaigning for various groups, serving as chairman of Camden Race Equality and on the board for a number of schools and for the Greater London Forum for Older People.

His son Ranjan said he recalls his father, aged in his 80s at the time, being pinned to the ground by Tony Blair’s security guards when he reached into his satchel for some papers during a Labour party conference.

Known for being passionate about his beliefs and a fine cook, more recently he would often be seen shuffling down England’s Lane in Belsize Park.

He died on Saturday as a result of his diabetes. His funeral took place on Monday at Golder’s Green Crematorium and a memorial will take place on Saturday, May 11 at Hampstead Town Hall in Rosslyn Hill.

He is survived by his wife Mira, 84, his son Ranjan, 46, and three grandsons.