A day with Gorkhaland blockade enforcers

Though the blockade enforcers know that many of the hill residents defy the shutdown, they plead helplessness because of the family they have to run.

Published: 01st July 2017 05:26 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st July 2017 05:26 PM   |  A+A-

Gorkhaland activists at a blockade at Relli in Kalimpong district on Saturday. (Aishik Chanda | EPS)

Express News Service

KALIMPONG: Rajen Pradhan rises at 3.30 am every morning since the beginning of complete shutdown of Darjeeling hills from June 15.
Responding to the latest Gorkhaland bugle sounded after Mamata Banerjee declared her plans to make Bangla compulsory in all schools of West Bengal, 26-year-old Rajen jumped the Gorkhaland bandwagon by working as one of the many dedicated blockade enforcers who are making the complete shutdown successful throughout Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.
Having a meal of leftover fried rice and tea, Rajen leaves his village Pala by 4.15 am. He walks 4 km down the hill, crosses the Relli river to reach the nearest blockade at Relli Bridge, some 10 km south from Kalimpong town, to join other protesters of various political parties.
“We gather by 5.30 am as people in the hills start day early. Blockade enforcers who commute from as far as 8-10 km are allowed to come in their motorbikes. We take turns every day to maintain a register of emergency vehicles who are allowed to pass through our blockade but only with valid pass from Gorkha Janmukti Morcha party office,” Rajen said.
Blockade enforcer Pemba Sherpa does multi-tasking at 7th mile bridge blockade, 5 km from Kalimpong. “I give water bottles to participants of political rallies, stop and verify each vehicle passing through our blockade and also counsel intoxicated youth who try to create ruckus and bring bad name to the Gorkhaland movement,” Pemba said.
Though the blockade enforcers know that many of the hill residents defy the shutdown by commuting to Siliguri and other parts of the hills during the night, when blockades are abandoned, they plead helplessness because of the family they have to run.
“I have to cut grass for the cattle and milk the cows after sitting the entire day at the blockade. The family has to run despite the blockade. Every one of us has to work back at home due to which, we return at dusk,” said 7th mile blockade enforcer Roshan Rai.
When no vehicle is passing their blockade, the enforcers engage in long discussions about the events of the hills. “We are not against Bengalis or Mamata Banerjee. We just want our own state. Look at the glory and money of our neighbours in Sikkim and then look at our poverty despite us being more enriched in natural resources than Sikkim,” said Relli blockade enforcer Tenzing Bhutia.
On the other hand, the blockade enforcers vow not to vandalise vehicles in response to vandalising of Sikkim vehicles in Siliguri. Several Sikkim vehicles were vandalised and Sikkimese people harassed in Siliguri after Sikkim chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling wrote a letter to Union home minister Rajnath Singh extending his support to Gorkhaland statehood. 
“Those people (vandals in Siliguri) are actually strengthening our movement by attacking the people of Sikkim. We don’t want to bring a bad name to Gorkhaland movement by copying them,” said Relli blockade enforcer Bikash Chhetri.

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