More than 1,000 school students from foreign countries have become silent sufferers of the indefinite bandh in Darjeeling. These students are now stuck in the hills even as Darjeeling witnesses violence and central forces get ready for deployment in a hushed town.
Though almost all Indian students have left the boarding schools of Darjeeling, students from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and other countries could not leave on such a short notice.
There are 13 Anglo-Indian schools, apart from 32 other listed schools in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong areas. There are over 1,000 foreign students studying and staying win hostels of these reputed schools.
On Friday, just a day from the indefinite bandh, different school authorities were busy stocking provisions for the students who will be forced to stay in the hostels. Anxious phone calls continued to pour in from family members outside India.
“Though we could not arrange for their travel back home, we have made stocks for all the boarders. We will take all necessary steps if the situation demands,” Father Santy Mathew, Rector St Joseph’s school, North Point, Darjeeling told HT.
“We have many boys from Bangkok, Bhutan, Nepal and other countries...it is impossible for us to send them to there home countries. Their parents are predictably worried, as they never apprehended this would be the situation when they sent their children to study here. Neither will children come here from abroad if such a situation continues,” Father Mathew added.
In this school alone, there are nearly 270 students from foreign countries.
On July 30, hours after the Congress Working Committee endorsed statehood for Telangana, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) announced an indefinite strike in the Darjeeling Hills from Saturday to demand formation of Gorkhaland. The GJM asked all tourists and students to leave Darjeeling by Friday.
“We asked the students to leave because we understand that there may be shortage of food during the bandh. We do not want the children to suffer,” said Roshan Giri, general secretary of GJM.
The authorities are also worried on the issue. “We are also worried about the students and the law and order situation. We have made elaborate security arrangements and will take necessary steps,” said Gautam Deb, North Bengal development minister.
School authorities, who did not want to be quoted stated that if the strike continues for a week they will need protection from the police to get ration from Siliguri.
“We have stocked up for some days. We do not want to compromise of the safety and security of the students, many of whom are in their early teens. In the long run we also would need protection to get ration from Siliguri,” said one of the principals on the condition of anonymity.
“When the strike was called, we were a bit shocked. It’s an indefinite strike and neither can I go, nor my parents can come at such a short notice. I came here because I thought this is a good place for education, but now I think it has been a bad choice,” said Devarth Dixit, a class-12 student from Nepal at St Joseph’s.