NEWS

Students Stranded, Tourism Badly Hit: How The Hills Are Reeling From The Gorkhaland Protests

The situation seems grim in the hills with low food supplies and no internet.

20/06/2017 1:16 PM IST | Updated 20/06/2017 1:20 PM IST
AFP/Getty Images

Even as supporters of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha are protesting on the streets of Darjeeling and security forces are continuing to patrol areas, the region is reeling under the fallouts of the protests.

Students in the boarding schools in the town have been left stranded, and the tourism business is also taking the hit.

Classes are not taking place in schools and food supplies are depleting because of the curfew like situation in the area.

Robindra Subba, director of the Himali Boarding School in Kurseong told The Indian Express, "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."

While the GJM secretary, calling for the month-long bandh in Darjeeling, had said that educational institutes and emergency services like water and electricity would be exempt, the volatile situation has been a hindrance.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose effigies were burnt by protesters, has called for peace in the hill district of the state, but protesters are unlikely to back down soon.

PTI reported Sirish Pradhan, a GJM worker, as saying, "Three of our activists were killed. We are ready to give our lives, but will not stop protesting till we get Gorkhaland."

Exam schedules in the boarding schools of Darjeeling and Kurseong have been affected as well. The Telegraph reported that many schools that had boarders from just India, but from Nepal, Thailand and Bhutan, wereholding two exams a day instead of one, hoping to send the students home as soon as possible if there was a window of peace.

Given low stocks of food, they are hoping to do so as soon as possible.

The Telegraph quoted a senior teacher of St Paul's Darjeeling as saying, "There are 437 students in our hostels right now. The parents have finalised their travel plans keeping in mind that our summer holidays begin from June 24. We can only hope there would be a way out of the impasse."

NDTV reported that the internet supply was also cut in Darjeeling to prevent GJM supporters from using social media to write 'provocative posts.'

The Hindustan Times reported that this was a setback for the protesters because smartphones were a useful tool who recorded videos of clashes and sent it to protesters in other locations.

And as school authorities are grappling with how to keep their students safe, tourism has also taken a hit. Not only in Darjeeling, hotels in neighbouring Sikkim are also losing bookings. Siliguri, at the foothills, is suffering the consequences of the agitation as well.

A spokesperson of a resort in Sikkim told The Indian Express two days ago, "We do not have any problem in Gangtok, but there is a problem on the way to Gangtok. Tourists coming from Bagdogra airport or New Jalpaiguri railway station in West Bengal are finding it difficult to reach here because of strikes and protest on NH-10. Today, one of our guests was on their way to Bagdogra, and they were stuck on the way as their vehicle was attacked by protesters. It is a bit risky to come here or travel to West Bengal. We have started witnessing cancellation in our bookings."

Scroll is reporting that in Silliguri, where tourists usually stop before heading to Gangtok or Darjeeling, shop owners and taxi drivers are losing business.

It reported that Siliguri's famous HongKong Market saw a dip in business. Taxi driver's too were scared of ferrying people uphill to the hill stations in the face of violent protests.

Tapan Roy, who runs a shop that sells women's clothing in HongKong Market, told Scroll, "This agitation has killed our busines. I hardly sold anything yesterday and we don't even know when it will end, meaning tourists will keep away for a long time."

If reports are to be believed, it is likely that the big upcoming tourist season during Durga Pujas will also see repercussions of the GJM protests.

IANS reported Anil Punjabi, eastern region chairman of Travel Agents Federation of India as saying, "Only few stranded tourists are up there. All reservations for the summer season have been cancelled and we have had cancellations for the Durga puja season as well. There are a lot of NRI families who visit Kolkata during the puja and then extend their trip to include Darjeeling but now it's all restricted to the city."

Also on HuffPost India

Hailstorm in Wayanad

More On This Topic