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17 Jun 2017

Darjeeling schools apprehensive as bandh enters third day

Jayanta Gupta & Deep Gazmer | TNN | Jun 17, 2017, DARJEELING: Will boarding schools in Darjeeling witness a repeat of 2013 when students from other parts of the country had to be evacuated after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha called an indefinite bandh similar to the ongoing one in the Hills now? The only difference is that the GJM hasn't yet asked students to leave, as it had done in 2013. The party has already asked tourists and migrant labourers to leave the Hills and it may well be a matter of time before students receive similar instructions.
According to Father Shajumon C K, rector, St Joseph's School, North Point, worried parents have already 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 keep telling the parents that we are following the normal routine," he said, adding that examinations are in progress and three sets of question papers have been prepared for emergencies. "We are trying to conduct examinations for the boarders as per schedule and they will end on June 23. However, we are keeping our fingers crossed. If the bandh is not called off soon, the students may have to be evacuated to Siliguri. At the moment, we have sufficient supplies to last us a month," he said. The 129-year-old Jesuit institution has 520 borders, many of them from Saudi Arabia, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and other countries. In 2013, nearly 1,000 foreign students had been left stranded in Darjeeling after their Indian classmates left for home.
Just like Fr Shajumon, Robindra Subba, director, Himali Boarding School in Kurseong is worried that such agitations will spoil the Hills' reputation as a destination for good education. "It's only been two days so there have been no problems.However, we have been receiving hundreds of calls from anxious guardians. I am telling them that there is no trouble now but the situation may deteriorate if the bandh continues.I can only hope that the bandh is called off soon," Subba said.
He pointed to similar agitations in the past that didn't help anybody and wished that those concerned adopt other measures. "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.Bandhs affect not only schools, but also others associated with them. Examinations are on and we are conducting morning and evening classes but how long can we continue if there is trouble," Subba added.
"Local kids aren't being able to attend classes and will ultimately lag behind," said the principal of an HS school.

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