A year after the Gorkhaland stir, the hills are gripped by a sense of betrayal – and football fever

One recent day, colourful flags added cheer to the grey, pre-monsoon morning in the West Bengal hill station of Kurseong, 30 km from Darjeeling. With the football World Cup less than a fortnight away, the hills have come alive with the flags of Argentina, Germany and Brazil sticking out of shared cabs, decorating shop fronts and fluttering on the streets.

There are also flags across Darjeeling, part of an effort by the alumni association of its most famous school and members of other civic groups to attract more tourists by branding the hill station a World Cup town. “We want to give a message to the people that Darjeeling is absolutely peaceful and normal these days,” the president of the Darjeeling North Point School Alumni Association told the Hindustan Times

But underlying the festive spirit in the football-crazy hill areas is an evident sense of loss. At this time last year, the hills were in the grip of a different kind of euphoria. Huge numbers of people, now divided by football loyalties and political inclinations, had come together in an unprecedented uprising to demand a separate state of Gorkhaland. June 8 marks the first anniversary of clashes with the police that would result a week later in a 104-day shutdown in the hills of Darjeeling district and parts of Jalpaiguri district – a period marked by possibility and uncertainty, hope and despair.
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