Darjeeling, June 23, 2017: "Going Home Day has come at last; Do-da-do-da- day; We traveled all the night; We traveled all the day; We traveled by the DHR; Do -da-do-da-day" is the famous "Going Home" song that Hill school boarders used to sing with much gusto on their way back home from the numerous boarding schools of the Queen of the Hills. The "going home" on Friday was a stark contrast to this as a few thousand boarders were evacuated from Darjeeling amidst the ongoing indefinite bandh and unrest that has engulfed the Darjeeling Hills.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has clamped an indefinite bandh in Darjeeling since June 15. With vacation in the Hill schools slated for June 23, it was sleepless night for the schools as to how to evacuate the boarders. The GJM then announced a 12 hour window allowing boarders to leave the Hills on Friday.
"Usually parents and guardians come to school and collect their wards. This time we reached the students to Siliguri from where the parents collected them" stated Partha Pratim Dey, Senior Master, Mount Hermon School.
It was a mixed feeling for the students. On one side there was the excitement of going home, on the other there was the feeling of fear of having to leave amidst the strife. "I am very excited that we are all going down to Siliguri together. Usually my parents collect me from school. We will also be provided brunch in the bus" stated Tenzing Tsomo, a class 5 student of Mount Hermon.
For Subash Das, teacher, it was a reminiscence of the Gorkhaland agitation of the 80s. "In 1987 I had accompanied the boarders to Siliguri and then we had taken 135 students to Kolkata by the State Transport "Rocket" buses" stated Das. He was accompanying the Mt. Hermon students on Friday.
Though the bandh was exempted for vehicles ferrying school students from 6am to 6pm, not taking any chances the St. Joseph's school cavalcade had started at 5am from Darjeeling and reached Siliguri by 8am. "We were spending sleepless nights with news of the unrest in Darjeeling. It is a great relief that the students have arrived safely. The school took very good care of the students" stated Krishna Kumar Das, of Kolkata. His son studies in class 8 at St. Joseph's school.
The school authorities have asked the boarders to carry home text books. St. Joseph's school will be reopening on July 3. "We will keep in touch with the parents. If the bandh continues we will inform the parents" stated Father Shajumon, Rector, St Joseph's school.
"Throughout the world Darjeeling is renowned as an education hub. Such unrest is a major blow to that image. We hope that normalcy returns fast and that schools reopen as per schedule" stated Sahida Khanum, mother of a Class 8 student from Bangladesh.
The Gorkha Janmukti Vidhyarthi Morcha (students' wing of the GJM) cadres were present at the Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling. They conducted checks in vehicles for non-students and also issued passes. Students from all over the globe study in the boarding schools of Darjeeling.