Boarding Schools Fear Shutdown In Hills

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Darjeeling: Will boarding schools in Darjeeling witness a repeat of 2013, when students had to be evacuated after GJM called an indefinite bandh? Although GJM is yet to ask students, who come from across the country, to leave, the party has already told tourists and migrant labourers to do so.

According to Father Shajumon C K, rector, St Joseph’s School, North Point, worried parents have started calling up to find out about the boarders. The students are safe though and not many are aware of the goings-on outside campus, he said. “I have told the parents that we are following the normal routine,” he said, “But we are keeping our fingers crossed. If the bandh is not called off soon, the students may have to be evacuated to Siliguri.” The 129-year-old Jesuit institution has 520 boarders, many of them from other countries. In 2013, nearly 1,000 foreign students were left stranded in Darjeeling after their Indian classmates left for home.

Robindra Subba, director, Himali Boarding School, Kurseong, is worried that the agitation will spoil the Hills’ reputation as an education destination. “We have been receiving calls from anxious guardians. I am telling them that there is no trouble so far, but the situation may deteriorate if the bandh continues,” Subba said. “We had similar trouble in the 1980s but it led nowhere. We are yet to recover from the effects of the trouble in 2013. The Hills are earning notoriety for being politically volatile,” he added.

Also Read: GJM Begins Indefinite Strike Across Darjeeling

Himali Boarding School has 402 boarders.

A mid continuing violence in Darjeeling, Union home minister Rajnath Singh called up West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday and discussed with her the situation prevailing there. During the telephonic conversation, the chief minister briefed the Union home minister about the steps taken by the state government to maintain law and order and restore normalcy in the hill district, official sources said.

Singh asked Banerjee to take all possible steps so that peace is restored in the picturesque hill station where people are protesting against “imposition” of Bengali in schools by making the language mandatory. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which is in power in the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, has started an agitation demanding a separate state -Gorkhaland.