Alert triggers tourist scurry

tourists who stayed back in Darjeeling
A majority of tourists who had decided to stay back in the hills despite last week's turmoil today scurried to descend downhill to Siliguri, hours after Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung issued an alert that "anything might happen".
"Things are getting worse and I think the tourists should leave (Darjeeling) so that they do not face inconvenience in coming days. Anything might happen. Since this is an issue of the language, the community's protest will take place in Assam, Meghalaya, Delhi and other parts of the country, too," said Gurung.
There had already been an air of uncertainty among tourists and in the tourism industry since last evening when the Morcha announced its indefinite agitation.

"We have our return tickets on Tuesday and thought of staying back in the hills as hotels and transport were kept out of the purview of the agitation. We had also managed to withdraw cash from the ATM," said Bipul Bhattacharya, a resident of Sonarpur, on the outskirts of Calcutta.
But within hours of Gurung's warning this morning, Bipul, travelling with his and his friend's families, took little time in hiring a car to reach Siliguri.
After arriving in Siliguri, Bipul and the two families headed for Lataguri in the Dooars.
Priyanshu Agarwal, who works with an IT company in Ahmedabad, also cut short his stay in the hills.
"We had heard about the violence and still reached Darjeeling late on Friday evening. We saw army and police personnel on the roads but we were confident that there would be no problems during the trip," he said.
Priyanshu said he and his friends felt it "safer" to spend the rest of their vacation in the plains.
"Even if the hotels remain open and transport is available, we doubt how many tourists will go to the hills, particularly when there is such a loud and clear message that hints at possible trouble," the youth said.
Tour operators, who have already been worried about the possible impact on the tourism sector in the aftermath of the June 8 violence, said Gurung's remarks had worsened the situation further.
"Tourists are worried and they are either coming down to Siliguri or heading for Sikkim. We are busy restructuring their itineraries. We are also informing those who are scheduled to arrive tomorrow and onwards about the recent developments and offering them a trip directly to Sikkim or the Dooars," said Samrat Sanyal, the president of Eastern Himalaya Travel & Tour Operators' Association.
Gurung's warning, which comes a day after Mamata Banerjee assured the tourists that everything was under control in the hills, is yet another attempt to prove the Morcha's "pre-eminence" over the state government in the region, political observers said.
"This is yet another attempt by Gurung to prove that he is the last word in the hills. The Morcha was grossly perturbed," an observer said.(TT)

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