Darjeeling unrest: Boarding schools having harrowing time due to shutdown

Darjeeling: With supplies running out and vacations to start soon, renowned boarding schools of Darjeeling are having a harrowing time due to the indefinite shutdown in the hills.

Darjeeling is home to some of the oldest and renowned boarding schools of the country but with the GJM-sponsored indefinite shutdown over the demand of Gorkhaland on its sixth day on Tuesday, the school authorities are at their wits end on how to send the students home once the vacation starts next week.

"We are facing two problems presently. One is of supply of food stock and another is of sending the students home. Food stocks we have will last for the next five days," said Rabindra Subba, the principal of Himali Boarding school.

 Darjeeling unrest: Boarding schools having harrowing time due to shutdown

File photo of Gorkhaland agitation. AFP.

Himali which has nearly 400 boarders needs around 19 kg of rice and 60 kilograms of wheat everyday.

Subba said that with exams getting over by Friday, sending the students to their homes needs to be arranged even as the tickets for their journey have already been booked. Besides, parents are worried about their wards.

"If the bandh gets over, it's good or else we have to take the help of the local administration and political parties of the hills to arrange for their safe passage," he said.

Subba's apprehension was shared by his counterpart, Father Shanjumon at St Joseph North Point school which has nearly 1,200 students out of which 500 are boarders.

"Food supply is not a problem for us as we have supply for next two months. Our main problem is sending 500 boarders safely to their homes," Shanjumon told PTI.

Shanjumon said he would sit with other schools and local administration to arrange safe passage for the students in view of the all party meeting deciding to continue with the indefinite shutdown. Both Subba and Shanjuman agreed that the students are a "little tense" after reports of Saturday's violence, in which two GJM activists were killed in clashes and an IRB assistant commandant was grievously injured, poured in.

Students Sebastian (name changed), a Philippine national and Mahesh (name changed) from Tamil Nadu are tense and are afraid of going out after witnessing violence outside their school gates on Saturday. "That day we saw clashes outside our gate and we also saw clippings on social media that went viral. We are a bit tense and don't want to go out alone. We would love to go to our homes safely," Sebastian, a Class X student of St Joseph North Point said.

The chairman of the ICSE schools association in Darjeeling, T Chhetri said he has been receiving frantic phone calls from parents since last week. "We are making arrangements so that we can send the students safely back to their homes," he said.

Meanwhile, an all party meeting convened by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha here today decide that the indefinite bandh in Darjeeling hills, which entered its sixth day, will continue until security forces are withdrawn.

"The indefinite shutdown will continue as the onus is on the state government to restore normalcy in the hills. They have to withdraw security forces - both the state, central and all repressive forces," GJM spokesperson T Arjun told reporters after the meeting.

Updated Date: Jun 20, 2017 22:23:44 IST