DARJEELING: An eerie calm prevailed in the volatile hills of West Bengal on Wednesday, 13 days after the first vehicles were burnt in the latest round of Gorkhaland agitation in Darjeeling. Curious glances followed this The New Indian Express correspondent as he cruised on a bike through empty roads during the complete shutdown in the town. The agitation in the region and the incessant rainfall forced most of the residents to stay indoors.
“There is a complete strike and we are observing it. There is no work and we will continue until there is a separate Gorkhaland,” said Amar Thapa, a resident of Rongtong.
LPG cylinders in the hills are now selling like hot cakes, though consumers have to shell out as much as Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500 per cylinder. “We can live on local food, but we need gas for cooking,” said
Sushma Pokhrel, a housewife from Kurseong.
As LPG cylinders are crucial for day-to-day living, trucks carrying the cylinders have been allowed to pass through blockades. Other than the LPG trucks, only ambulance and media vehicles are being allowed to pass through.
Darjeeling bore the garb of a ghost town with hotels, shops and all establishments staying shut. Youngsters played cricket and football on empty streets. “Our schools are shut. We have nothing to do, so we play near our houses,” said Class V student Jitendra Moktan of Sonada.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Wednesday announced a 12-hour window on Friday for students in boarding schools to return back to Siliguri. However, parents would not be allowed to come and pick up
their wards. The schools will have to transport the students in school buses. The move was declared as monsoon vacation in the hills is set to begin by the end of June.
Many residents feel that as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has left for The Hague, Netherlands, at a time when the hills are shut down, it shows her indifference towards the region. Political commentator Upendra Pradhan said, “Could Mamata have left abroad abandoning everything if such a situation had occurred in Kolkata or south Bengal? She might think that she can control the agitation by deactivating Internet and staying indifferent, but we have held 40-day indefinite strikes earlier and we can continue this strike as well.”