No End To Darjeeling Crisis In Sight As Students Join Gorkhaland Cause

These are the new, young faces of Darjeeling, fighting for a separate state of Gorkhaland. In their late teens or early 20s, many have never been politically active before. But this time its different, it's no longer just a political fight for them.

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No End To Darjeeling Crisis In Sight As Students Join Gorkhaland Cause

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In Darjeeling, the agitation on the ground is being sustained by young people.

Darjeeling:  In Darjeeling, several parties - minus West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress - attended a meeting called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on Gorkhaland and decided that the indefinite shut down in the hills could continue. And there was no question of going to the all-party meet that chief minister Mamata Banerjee has called at Siliguri on Thursday. She is in the Netherlands and the meeting will be led by her senior-most ministers and bureaucrats. 

But with most of the senior leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and its chief Bimal Gurung away, the agitation on the ground is being sustained by young people who've now decided to join the movement. 

These are the new, young faces of Darjeeling, fighting for a separate state of Gorkhaland. In their late teens or early 20s, many have never been politically active before. But this time its different, it's no longer just a political fight for them.

All of 19, Preeti Gurung, a student, feels this time this is their fight. "We have been given our constitutional rights. But they are giving us step motherly treatment. We are Indians and we have spilt our blood on the streets here," she told NDTV while waiting in the rain as a meeting of all political groups was were underway. 

College can wait, says Lancy Pradhan, "even for a whole year". She is on the streets not because she supports a political party but as a 22-year-old Darjeeling native, she believes Gorkhaland is her right. "We want the government to protect us. We want our rights to be taken into consideration. We want Mr Modi to pay attention to our condition," she says. 

For hotel management student Sukrit Rai, his first brush with politics, he says, was triggered by ugly images of policemen beating up women protestors in Darjeeling last Monday. For six days now, he's attended every rally he could and is getting more young people to join the protests.

"It's not a political movement any more. It is a people's movement now. We stand here united. The reason why we youth are out here is because elderly people were lathicharged by the police and even a boy as young as 12 years old," Sukrit Rai says. 

The crisis began after Mamata Banerjee said Bengali would be compulsory in schools. She later did exempt Darjeeling, but during her visit to the hills on June 8, protests erupted, locals clashed with police and the army was called in.

Today, one of Darjeeling's best known Jesuit teachers, Father Kinley Tsering, wrote to Mamata Banerjee asking for Gokhaland for the sake of Darjeeling's youth. "One generation was lost in the 80s and another generation is being lost now..." he said in a letter addressed to the Chief Minister. 

The chief minister meanwhile is in the Netherlands and has appealed for peace and warned protesters not to play with fire. But as protests continue and Darjeeling simmers, there seems to be no end to this crisis anytime soon.

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