Darjeeling, Feb. 25: The Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha has called upon all hill students to boycott classes from Monday until the government orders a CBI inquiry into the Sibchu police firing, an indication that Bimal Gurung’s outfit is determined to get its demands fulfilled before the election code of conduct comes into effect.
The announcement has made the hill institutions jittery at a time when many of them are trying to ensure that there is no major exodus of outstation students.
Around 2.5 lakh students attend the nearly 1,000 schools and colleges that dot the hills. These institutions, some of which have students from other countries as well, are major contributors to the region’s economy.
The class boycott call from the students’ wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha comes close on the heels of the party’s decision to impose an embargo on the despatch of the first flush of Darjeeling tea.
Amrit Yonzone, the vice-president of Morcha’s student wing, said: “We call upon the students of the hills, both school and college-going, to boycott classes from February 28 until the government orders a CBI inquiry into the killing of three of our supporters at Sibchu.”
Explaining the details of the boycott, Nima Sherpa, spokesperson for the Vidyarthi Morcha, said: “The students can go to school but no classes can be taken. We will also sit with the teaching fraternity the day after tomorrow to apprise them of our boycott call.”
Most of the Anglo-Indian schools are scheduled to reopen after a three-month winter vacation on March 1 but almost all government and state-aided schools have already reopened and so have the colleges.
The student wing will also organise a public meeting on March 6, where the leaders will announce a date for a Darjeeling to Calcutta padayatra. “Students will take part in the padayatra from Darjeeling to Calcutta. We will also write to the President, the Prime Minister, home minister and the governor of West Bengal, demanding a CBI inquiry (into the firing),” said Sherpa.
This is not the first time that the students have come out on the streets under the Vidyarthi Morcha’s banner. They had taken part in relay hunger strikes and rallies and attended public meetings apart from laying siege to the office of the ABGL in Darjeeling under the leadership of the Vidyarthi Morcha.
Teachers in the hills have appealed to the student leaders to reconsider their decision. “Even in war torn zones, utmost priority is given to education. The demand for a CBI inquiry is justified but students should be allowed to study as they are the future of the place,” said a teacher.
Other teachers voiced concern about the impact it would have on outstation parents. “We are convincing them to send back their wards to our school and have assured them that studies will not be affected. We just hope that the boycott will not carry on for long. If the boycott is for a short duration, we can make up by holding classes on Saturdays as we normally do when school is affected by general strikes,” said a teacher.
Schools with boardings fear that outstation students might not turn up at all. “We are getting calls from anxious parents who want to shift their wards elsewhere,” said a teacher.
In Delhi, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri met Union home minister P. Chidambaram today to find a solution to the hill impasse. “I, along with Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh and the interlocutor (Vijay Madan), again met the home minister at his office today. The Centre is trying to find a solution,” said Giri.
He had met Chidambaram yesterday too.