NOT JUST SUPPLIES, EVEN PATIENCE IS RUNNING OUT IN THE HILLS Boredom too is now a real worry
Gangtok, 02 Jul:
The strike in Darjeeling for Gorkhaland enters its twenty-third day on Monday. It is the eighteenth day of the general strike in the region, but Darjeeling had begun shutting down much ahead, it may be recalled.
While the all-party collaboration of the region has resolved to continue with the indefinite bandh to sustain the pressure, residents of Darjeeling are finding it hard to weather through the scarcity of basic commodities, erratic mobile phone connectivity, difficulties in traveling and rising boredom.
That said, besides affecting the hill economy, the strike has also deepened the divide between the hills and plains. For instance, the introduction of the Bengali language in schools across the state was not well received by the Darjeeling residents, who saw it as an attempt to impose the dominant Bengali language and culture on them.
This, despite Nepali being a Constitutionally recognized language. What started as a protest against this imposition of Bengali on hill students, has now conflated into a demand for statehood, arriving at a standoff from which neither side appears inclined to step away and the people, despite their privations, willing to stand fast for the “final battle” for Gorkhaland that the leaders promised this latest round of agitation to be.
The emotions aside, the problems are a plenty.
Arbina Rai, a private school teacher of Darjeeling says that unreliable mobile network in the region has caused her to miss an important exam.
“I was supposed to appear for one of the most important exams of my career, but I could not go due to the agitation. Internet is everything nowadays. People fill forms online and they get to know about important deadlines and stay informed, and not being able to do that is really frustrating,” she adds.
Although she does not miss the internet so much, not being able to make phone calls has her worried as is the inability to travel especially since she has an ailing mother to look after.
However, she hopes that the upcoming all-party meeting on 06 July will loosen the complete shutdown that the strike imposed.
According to another resident, Passang Bhutia, people are not allowed to visit shops and stores in Jorethang-Majhitar in Sikkim unless for a medical emergency occurs.
“They want us to stay united for the cause, but at what cost?” Passang says.
And then there are those with ailing parents who might not be in a medical emergency, but require to regular review check-ups, something which they are unable to do at present. There are many who need monthly check-ups and are now due for a visit to the doctor, almost all of them outside Darjeeling.
Rikhil Subba, a student of North Point School, says that his summer vacation is ruined due to the bandh. Rikhil’s family had planned a trip to Manali this summer but they had to cancel it due to the strike.
“I am not disappointed at that but I am bored staring at the walls all day,” he says.
Rikhil says he misses internet and the ‘pop’ of his Facebook notifications.
“I would have been happy if I at least had access to the internet. I miss Facebook and Musically and Whatsapp. Not being able to use them and catch up with my friends is frustrating,” he complains, still, in a way too young to understand issues of statehood and identity.
“Some people have also deliberately blocked the road with trees and stones,” he further adds.
According to some of the residents some organizations in the area have come forward to help the residents with essential commodities like daily rations.
“We have survived thus far, but I don’t know how long we can keep up with the strike. People are getting frustrated,” a party supporter has also been quoted in media reports as saying.
As for the Darjeeling region and the strike, come 06 July and the all-party meeting might have some announcements.