Five Bhutanese class 12 students and a class 10 student studying at St. Joseph’s College in North Point, Darjeeling, will start their classes from August 2 at Matigara, the college rector, Fr Shajumon, said.

Matigara is between Siliguri and Bagdogra. “Situation is normal here,” Fr Shajumon said.

The rector also said that other boarding students of the same classes, who are not Bhutanese, will also take the class at Matigara. The students will sit for the board exams this year.

This offsite arrangement is made because of the ongoing Gorkhaland indefinite strike in the hills that started in June this year.

Fr Shajumon said students will report to Matigara on August 1 and the classes will start on August 2. He also said that the classes will be taken by St Joseph teachers.

There are about 32 Bhutanese students studying from classes three to 12 in the school.

However, with the school vacation over by July 31, it is not confirmed whether the students studying in lower classes would return to the school, as the strike is still on.

Fr Shajumon said the school is not in a position to ask the students to come to the school. “Students would be called when the strike is lifted and the situation becomes normal.”

There are more than 85 Bhutanese students studying in St. Joseph’s College and other colleges in Kalimpong. The government escorted them to the country in June because of the strike.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) agitation was triggered in June when the West Bengal government announced hill schools to compulsorily include Bangla language. The schools objected to it.

Media reported that some people have died in the clashes between public and the police.

Director of the Department of Law and Order (DLO), Tashi Penjor, said they are regularly in touch with the counterparts. “But certain things are beyond their predictions too,” he said.

The superintendent of police in Darjeeling has intimated DLO that for the last one week there was no casualty in Kalimpong and Darjeeling. “Our counterparts say that law and order are also normalising,” the DLO director said.

As per the latest information shared with DLO, it is also likely that agitation and rally will be lifted this coming week as the dialogue between the government and GJM party is already going on. After the lifting of agitation and rally, schools and colleges are expected to resume.

However, the DLO was informed that it is not sure whether it is safe for students to return. “Our counterpart suggests students wait for a week and ask about the situation with their school and college authorities before returning,” Tashi Penjor said.

Meanwhile, the protesters organised rallies in the hills yesterday. Bhutan gates were closed.

Hundreds of people took to the street and police had to intervene.

After clashes between the public and policemen heated up, tear gas and rubber bullets were used to control the protesters.

Sources said police was able to stop the protesters from entering the main street of Jaigaon.

About 5,000 Bhutanese live in Jaigaon and the residents claimed that police advised them to stay indoors. Phuentsholing police say Bhutanese are safe and that there was no casualty because of rally.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing