DARJEELING: Christine Grace has seen Darjeeling transform from a busy tourist town into a garrison town within a month's time.
The Australian writer came to Darjeeling for some peace to pen down her latest novel. But, just as her ears got used to the cacophony of the Bengali tourists, high pitched slogans demanding Gorkhaland brought her back memories of the 1980s.
"This is my second time in Darjeeling. Last time when I came here as a teen in the mid 1980s, I was witness to similar agitation for Darjeeling for statehood. But, this time it seems the agitation has grown stronger," said Grace, now in her mid 50s.
Just after Grace witnessed the first round of Gorkhaland statehood agitation, the hills broke into armed insurgency from 1986 to 1988. An estimated 1,200 Gorkhas lost their lives. Innumerous incidents of rapes
Asked about her opinion on the movement, Grace said:"I see old, young and teens walking in massive rallies for a cause. That signifies that it is a unified mass movement. It's very telling about the yearning for statehood."
Affected by the shortage of food supplies in the Darjeeling hills due to indefinite bandh since June 15, Grace is making a lot of noodles to satiate her hunger. "The family with whom I am staying in a homestay near Loreto Convent school is also affected by the indefinite strike. Food supplies are really low," she said.
Grace had plans to visit a few other places in Darjeeling hills but now has to quietly leave the town in the middle of the night. "I am leaving home on Friday. I have got guaranteed transport with a few other foreigners in the middle of the night. I hope we safely pass through to Siliguri," she said.