THE GORKHA Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has provided a 12-hour window on Friday for evacuation of children from boarding schools in the north Bengal Hills. GJM’s assistant general secretary Binay Tamang on Wednesday said that school students will be allowed to leave the hills from 6 am to 6 pm on Friday. But he clarified that no other vehicle will be allowed to leave the town, as the bandh will go on. “School students will be allowed to leave the Hills only in school buses. The indefinite shutdown will continue — only students will be allowed to leave safely,” Tamang said.
Thousands of children study in several residential schools of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong. Besides other parts of India, many of these students come from Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Hong Kong and Bhutan. They have been stranded due to the indefinite strike called by GJM in Darjeeling Hills as part of its agitation against the West Bengal government’s decision to make Bengali mandatory in schools, as also for its demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland.
On Wednesday, ambulance drivers of Darjeeling held a media conference and announced that they will stop taking patients to Siliguri, and other areas, if GJM activists continue to harass them on the way. They alleged that GJM activists are flagging down ambulances and accusing drivers of ferrying people for money against the bandh, especially when they are returning from the plains with family members of patients. B R Tamang, an ambulance driver, said, “We appeal GJM to allow us to take patients, and issue us passes so that we are not stopped and harassed unnecessarily.”
GJM activists today took out rallies in different parts of the Hills, including Kalimpong, Kurseong, Mirik. Students, artists, singers, musicians and dramatists, among others, gathered at Darjeeling mall for what they called was an apolitical expression, lodging their protest against “police brutality” on GJM activists and demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland. The Mamata Banerjee government have denied allegations of police brutality.
Tika Bhai, poet and songwriter, said, “Intellectuals and sensitive people have come out to protest against the police brutality and demand for Gorkhaland. We have started a democratic movement. Dramas are being staged, songs are being sung, and poems are being read out.” Prashant Rai, a student of Darjeeling Government College, said, “This movement started in Kalimpong on June 19. After travelling to various places and staging dramas, we have reached Darjeeling.”