Photographer's Note

I was away in a remote corner in Sandakfu, Darjeeling, when it all began...I returned to the city to find my holiday going all wrong....the gorkhaland agitators had called for an indefinite strike in the hills, and they weren't letting people leave or come to the hills....i was forced to lock myself up for at least 36 hours in the city without food, and almost without water or cigarette...there were hardly any people on the street...
except these 3 lads...enjoying a break from their daily school routine...The agitation kept growing over the next few days...situation got worse...none complained...none stopped the agitators...
looking at these 3 kids i felt it was the growing aspiration of the Gorkhas, as the residents in these hills are known more popularly. They have always wanted to be a separate nation, if not at least a separate state...
there were more than 50 foreign tourists who were stuck in the hills for more than a day like me....we finally managed to escape in a group...but those 36 hours left a lasting impact in all our lives.

More info on Gorkhaland Movement
During the 80s Subash Ghising raised the demand for the creation of the state of Gorkhaland to be carved out of the hills of Darjeeling and areas of Dooars and Siliguri Terai contigious to Darjeeling, with a large population of ethnic Gorkhas. The Gorkhaland movement took a violent turn in 1980s when Subash Ghishing lead Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) entered a violent demand for statehood, which lead to the death of over 1200 people (official figures). This movement culminated with the formation of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in 1988. Over the years the state government allowed a free reign to Subash Ghishing and GNLF, there was a tactical understanding of West Bengal government not meddling in DGHC affairs as long as the demand for Gorkhaland was not brought up again.
After 20 years of GNLF rule the people of Darjeeling revolted against the tyranny, atrocities, high handedness, corruption of GNLF and prevented Subash Ghishing from entering Darjeeling hills. Since then the people of Darjeeling and Doors have restarted their fight for right to self assertion and development of the region by demanding the formation of Gorkhaland.
Since late 2007 the demand for a separate state within the Indian Union has been started more intensely by the Gorkha leader Mr. Bimal Gurung, under the newly formed party called Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJMM). He has called for a more non violent form of protest by refusing to pay state taxes to the government including electricity and phone bills. People have resorted to changing vehicle numbers from WB (West Bengal) to GL (signifying Gorkhaland). Currently the administrative machinery in the hills of Darjeeling seems to have broken down, with most of the Government offices non functional, and even the police unable to maintain law and order in the district. The scene became particularly violent when a woman GJMM supporter was shot dead allegedly by GNLF supporters during a protest. Chaos and lawlessness reigned supreme while the administration was no where to be seen. The situation became normal after GJMM leaders called for restraint. The center and the West Bengal government has called for a tripartite meeting with the GJMM leaders to resolve the issue. However break through seems unlikely as both the GJMM leaders as well as the West Bengal government seems to be taking a hard stance, where the former has refused to consider anything less than Gorkhaland while the later has been adamant in claiming that they would not allow further division of Bengal.

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Additional Photos by sabyasachi dasgupta (sabyasachi_d) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 57 W: 1 N: 92] (415)
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