Gorkhaland stir: No school, playground or internet for children in Darjeeling
Markets and movie halls, shops and hangout zones have all remained shut in the hills since June 15.india Updated: Jul 08, 2017 22:58 IST
Suddenly confronted with a life with no school, no playground, and no internet, children of the north Bengal hills are suffering the most as the indefinite bandh called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland, entered its 14th day on Wednesday, with no sign of life returning to normal in the foreseeable future.
Markets and movie halls, shops and hangout zones have all remained shut in the hills since June 15. Pleas to go out and play are met with stern looks and forbidding fingers from parents, and sometimes, even from security forces, if one gets past the first barrier at home.
For the children, both the real and virtual world have completely shut down.
“Police and CRPF uncles do not allow us to play on the road near Old Super Market. Inside the house there is no internet,” said Tushar Tamang, 12, a student of class 6 of Gyanoday Niketan.
“It’s boring. I wish the school reopens at the earliest,” said Ayush Gupta, 15, a class 9 student of Camellia School. Both schools are near Darjeeling town.
Worse, there is no end of the suffering in sight as GJM leaders have made it clear that the bandh would continue unless the police force is withdrawn, and the Centre convenes talk to discuss its demand for Gorkhaland.
“Main ek cyber cafe mein games khelta tha. Ab bandh hai (I?used to visit a cyber cafe to play games. But it’s closed and I?must remain indoors),” rued five-year old Rishav Thapa, a resident of Darjeeling. His favourite cyber cafe at George Bazar has remained closed since June 15.
Gupta and Tamang wake up every morning wondering how to spend the day. Unlike normal times, neither cant they play on roads nor visit some parks. Markets and shopping centres are also closed.
The ban on internet has made their smartphones and laptop computers virtually useless. To stop the rumour mills, the administration has banned internet services since June 19.
While some youths and businessmen living near border areas regularly cross over to Nepal and Bhutan to access the web — Darjeeling is the only district in the country that shares borders with three countries Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh — the children have to contend with a life without one of their biggest addictions, the internet.
The blanket bandh has also ensured children can’t escape the hills to visit relatives and friends in plains and neighbouring states. Tushar was supposed to visit Gangtok with his mother and elder brother to meet his relatives. But with no vehicles on the roads, he is stuck in the open jail that Darjeeling has become for the children.
His grandmother was supposed to visit Ayush during the summer vacation that began on June 24. “But they can’t come now,” he said.
“Though most schools in Kalimpong were supposed to reopen after two weeks of summer vacation, it is uncertain now,” said Capt (retd) Prakash Pradhan, director of Rockvale Academy in Kalimpong.
“When will the strike be lifted, uncle?” Tushar asked this correspondent. It’s a question on every young lips in the Darjeeling hills.