You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Tourists flee as threat of violence looms over Darjeeling

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-06-2017 AFP

Kolkata: Thousands of tourists fled Darjeeling on Monday after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) warned that a general strike could degenerate into violence.

Hundreds of troops and riot police personnel patrolled the streets of the famed tea-producing resort as panicked tourists packed their bags.

Riots and arson attacks in Darjeeling last week left 12 people injured and the GJM warned at the weekend that “untoward” events could happen when the general strike started on Monday.

But the troubles have dealt a major blow to the region’s crucial tourism industry.

Pradip Lama, secretary of the Darjeeling tourist association of travel agents, said that worried visitors are leaving and nearly 70% of bookings have been cancelled.

“Till Sunday, 7,000 tourists left Darjeeling,” Lama said.

The GJM want to set up their own state named Gorkhaland in the hill region, which is now part of West Bengal.

Tensions have risen again in Darjeeling over a government decision to introduce Bengali in schools. Indigenous Gorkhas, who mainly speak Nepali, are furious.

“We had heard about the trouble and still reached the hill resort on Friday, hoping that the situation would be normal,” Priya Roy, a tourist from Bangalore, said.

“We have decided to leave Darjeeling after GJM’s warning to tourists.”

Another tourist said their group’s vehicle was mobbed by slogan-shouting protesters who demanded to know their identities.

“I clutched at my mother’s arm even as she begged with folded hands, pleading with them to let us go,” Kamalika Chatterjee said.

Bimal Gurung, head of the GJM, said his “warning to the tourists was for their own safety” as the events could worsen anytime if his group launches a full-scale campaign for a separate state.

The Gorkhas have been campaigning for decades for a homeland. They say Bengali-speaking outsiders have exploited their resources and imposed their culture and language.

A similar agitation in 2007 led to the granting of some administrative powers to local people.

More From LiveMint

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon