The violence-hit Darjeeling is still at unrest with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GMK) supporters protested at several areas in the region and also called for a bandh on June 15 and also burnt effigies of West Bengal chief minster Mamata Banerjee for rejecting their demand of a separate state. Amidst the agitation, hundreds of students studying in schools of Kurseong and Kalimpong in Darjeeling are stranded in their schools and the authorities are concerned about running out of food stocks very soon. As per a report by Indian Express, many of these stranded students are from Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Hong Kong, Bhutan, besides other parts of India.
Even the internet services are still not reinstated in the region as situation continues to remain tensed. Speaking to Indian Express, Father Shajumon, rector of St Joseph’s North Point school said, “We are worried about how to send children home once the vacation starts. We have to plan an evacuation soon. I have been receiving many frantic calls from parents ever since trouble started. Day-scholars have also stopped coming.” He also assured that children are safe here and exams are being held.
One of the students, 16-year-old, from Kathmandu told Indian Express that he was waiting for his summer vacations which were scheduled to start from June 23. “I’m not sure if I can go now. We are safe for now, but trapped,” he said.
On June 17, there was a high-pitched battle between GJM supporters and the police just outside the school premiss. The clash ended with lives of two people in police firing and two vehicles were set on fire outside the school gates. Father Shajumon further informed that the curfew-like situation has restricted the teachers who live outside the campus to come to school. He stated that around 50 teachers live outside the campus and the classes and examinations are being conducted by the 25 residential teachers taking turns.
Speaking to IE, Robindra Subba, Director of the school that has 400 boarders and 600 day-scholars said, “The sudden bandh call caught us unawares. Right now, we have food stocks that will last another week. From Friday, the vacation starts and our prime worry is how to send the children home. And if they have to stay on, what will we do about food? We pray that we can somehow evacuate the children.”
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The director also expressed his concern about children dropping out of school. “After the agitation in 2013, we saw boarders and day-scholars dropping out. It took us four years to get back to full strength and now, this happens,” Subba added.
Even the parents of these students have been agitatedly trying to reach out to their children. Sanjoy Roy, father of a Class 11 student at St Joseph school told IE, “We panicked when we saw on TV teargas shells bursting in front of the school and vehicles being burnt. We usually speak to our son every Sunday, but we couldn’t call him this weekend because the examinations are on. We are yet to talk to him.”