Darjeeling: As the entire Darjeeling hills bounced back to normal after nearly four months of agitation for Gorkhaland and the related strike, the residents celebrated the age-old Phool-Patti Day (the day for the celebration of the flora) in the entire hills on Thursday today with traditional fervour, pomp and gaiety without caring for any trouble.
As soon as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung announced his decision to withdraw the 104-day long indefinite bandh (general strike) on Monday, to enable the people to participate in the ongoing festive season without trouble, thousands of people from all walks of life thronged the streets to enjoy their freedom after a long time.
Though Gurung’s announcement came in the form of an audio tape from his hideout, it mattered little to the ordinary citizens in the hills. A majority of them lost no time to visit markets and shopping malls to get hold of the new arrivals.
The joy of freedom, particularly among the young generation, was trebled after the government finally lifted the ban on internet services in the hills from Tuesday, which not only improved the communication network but also helped normalising banking operations in the hills.
Banking services in the hills had suffered terribly during the past few months due to non-availability of internet services even after the partial normalisation of the overall situation since early this month when the banks reopened. At the time. in case of emergency, people had to rush to Siliguri by any means to withdraw cash from ATMs there.
However, unlike the previous years, community Durga Puja is not being celebrated anywhere in the hill districts this time because the regular organisers, despite all-out attempts, failed to put in place the logistics required because of the complete logjam owing to the Gorkhaland agitation since early June.
That their grief was reduced to some extent was palpable in their full-scale participation in today’s unbound celebration of Phool Patti Day when many of the people were seen flocking the streets carrying banana stalks and sugar canes as part of the age-old traditions.
Interestingly, as soon the bandh was called off, several tourists, both domestic and foreign, started arriving in the Queen of Hills in small groups by hiring cars from Siliguri. A large number of hotels and popular eateries like Glenary’s, which had remained closed for nearly four months, have opened now after clearing all the accumulated dusts. They are getting ready to welcome more such visitors in the coming days.
Five hydroelectric power projects, which had remained shut because of the agitation, resumed operations on Thursday, with most of its employees joining their duty. A few tea gardens are returning to normalcy though the issue regarding the payment of bonus to the workers was yet to be settled.
Hindusthan Samachar/Ankur Bhattacharya