Sunday, June 29, 2008

Growing Unrest in Darjeeling

Kashmir, one of the prettiest regions in northern India has been
ravaged by unrest and border troubles with Pakistan, now Darjeeling
another beautiful hill station is seeing growing unrest, ethnic
clashes and violence. These are places I have always wanted to visit.
Friends tell me Kashmir will never be the same serene beautiful place
it once was, will the same be true of Darjeeling?

The New York Times reports--
"A long-brewing separatist movement in the Darjeeling hills had, until
recently, receded into the past so thoroughly that it became fodder
for fiction, setting the backdrop for Kiran Desai's 2006 Booker
Prize-winning novel, "The Inheritance of Loss." Earlier this month, it
burst out into the open again, chasing away tourists, signaling the
prospect of ugly ethnic clashes and prompting the Indian government to
send in paramilitary forces.

By Indian standards, the violence has been limited, with sporadic
clashes between the Nepali-speaking ethnic Gurkhas, who seek an
autonomous state in the hills of West Bengal, and Bengali-speakers,
who dominate the plains. In early June, the separatist group Gorkha
Janamukti Morcha called for a strike in Darjeeling and told tourists
to leave. An official in Siliguri, an ethnically mixed town and an
important transport hub in the plains, told The Press Trust of India
wire service that 10,000 tourists had done so as of mid-June.

To make matters worse, groups representing Bengalis called for a
retaliatory strike, shutting down Siliguri for several days this
month. The Indian government deployed the Central Reserve Police Force
to try to quell the ethnic conflict, while the governor of West
Bengal, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi,
called for both sides "to maintain communal harmony." The Gurkha
group, though, resumed its strike in Darjeeling, shutting businesses
and schools."

Read the full story at--

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