Children of Darjeeling hills are an unhappy lot now with schools closed, Internet suspended and playgrounds off-limits due to the indefinite shutdown in the hills since June 15. Malls, Cinema halls, the zoo also remained out of bounds for them. “Our parents are not allowing us to go outside and play. The police uncles are not allowing us to play on the road. Inside the house, there is no Internet. We cannot play online games,” said Vivek Giri, 13, a student of class VII. “With net connection off for the last 15-16 days, we have been unable to check our Facebook accounts or Whatsapp messages. We are totally cut off from the outside world as cable networks have also been snapped in a few areas,” Roshan, a class VIII student of St Joseph’s North Point, told PTI.
Travelling to other places during the vacation has also hit a stonewall as they cannot leave the hills during the ongoing shutdown. “My father had planned to take us to Digha sea beach during our vacation. I have never been to a sea beach, but now due to this shutdown, all our plans have gone for a toss,” said another student of St Joseph’s North Point. Most of the students in Darjeeling either study in government schools or in renowned boarding schools. They were also apprehensive about whether their friends, who have gone home during the vacation, would return or not due to the unrest in the hills. “Earlier in 2009, when there was a shutdown, many of our friends had left the school. They never came back. We think a similar thing will happen this time too,” said Prashant, a class XI student.
Prashant’s apprehension was shared by Robindra Subba, director of Himali Boarding School in Kurseong. In 2009, boarding schools witnessed a 25 percent drop in the number of students due to the unrest, he told PTI. “After that, it took us five-six years to get back the confidence that students are safe in the hills. We don’t know what will happen now,” Subba said. Various boarding schools sent hundreds of students safely to the plains when Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) gave a 12-hour window to the students of all the boarding schools to leave on June 23.