As Darjeeling’s toy train begins its climb towards Ghum, the country’s highest station at 2,258 metres above sea level, it doesn’t stop at Sonada station. Instead, it huffs and puffs past tall tin boards whose green paint has started melting in the monsoon rain. A blackened frame stands where the wooden waiting room once stood. Parts of the white trellis that adorned the roof are now grey.
Some hours earlier, passengers on the train had stuck their necks out at the smaller, more modest Gayabari station which is now a shed, its tin roof twisted from the fire that swept through the station last year.
On June 9, 2017, a group of agitators demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland had set the waiting room at Sonada station on fire. A week later, on June 15, Gayabari was set on fire as was Elysia Place, the DHR (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway) headquarters at Kurseong. While the stations have been boarded up and left untouched over the past year, Elysia Place has since been repaired and whitewashed, its burnt patches carefully hidden. Read More