DARJEELING, India, March 10, Reuter: Suspected Gurkha extremists exploded two small bombs outside schools in Darjeeling on Thursday to try to stop school examinations, police said.

One blasted at 40cm (18 inches) crater in the ground outside an examination center and blew in dozens of windows. An hour later another blast near a second school reverberated through this Himalayan Hill resort.

Nobody was hurt but most of the student’s stated away and the others began sitting their final examinations under Parliamentary guard.

Security forces patrolled the streets in strength after the explosions, chasing away students trying to disrupt the examinations. Several warning shots were fired but police reported no casualties.

The Gurkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), which is fighting for an autonomous region in the green, tea growing districts around Darjeeling, had called on the students to boycott the examinations as part of a 40day general strike which has closed down the town.

GNLF sources say 100 people have been killed since the strike began on February 10, claiming that most of them were victims of police firing.

Police declined to give their ‘own estimate of casualties but said 800-900 people had been arrested.

District Magistrate Debi Prasad Patra, administrative Chief of the region, blamed the GNLF for the spate of shootings, bombings and arson that has hit Darjeeling and other hill towns since the general strike began.

But Padma Mukhia, a leader of the GNLF women’s organization, denied that the Gurkha militants were responsible for many of the attacks, blaming them instead on anti-GNLF elements.

The strike in Darjeeling has become virtually total since last weekend when bombs were thrown at two shops, gutting one of them.

There is virtually no transport between Darjeeling and the north Indian plains, with buses making the journey under police escort ‘once a day.

Home (Interior) Minister Buta Singh has said the strike must end before the government will resume talks on the GNLF demands,

But Mukhta said GNLF leader Subhash Ghising, in common with most Gurkha militants, was staying away from the area during the strike and no response had been received from him.

Article extracted from this publication >> March 18, 1988