EOI, Darjeeling, 9 May 2016: The Bharatiya Gorkha Janjati Sangarsha Mahasangh, an umbrella organisation of 11 hill communities demanding tribal status, today announced it would organise a signature campaign in various parts of the country to garner support and to create pressure on the Centre.
The BGJSM’s demand is for according tribal status to the Bhujel, Gurung, Mangar, Newar, Jogi, Khas, Rai, Sunwar, Thami and Yakha (Dewan) communities from the hills and the Dhimals from the plains of Siliguri. The organisation, which is affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, asserted that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bagdogra and Birpara on April 7 to campaign for the state Assembly election, he had said the process for granting tribal status to the 11 communities had started.
Through the planned signature campaign, the Mahasangh wants not only to thank the prime minister for his assurance, but also to urge him to take concrete steps in facilitating the early grant of tribal status.
The GJM had initiated the demand for issuing granting tribal status to those communities that had been left out. Presently, the Bhutia, Sherpa, Yolmo, Lepcha and Tamang communities come under the tribal category. GJM leaders have also placed the demand in several bipartite and tripartite meetings as the matter also figures in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration agreement.
BGJSM president Kanchan Gurung said, “The signature campaign has actually started already from May 7 beginning from Lebong and the next day it was held in Mirik. We conducted the campaign today along Hill Cart Road in Darjeeling town. We are getting a good response from the people.”
The BGJSM maintained that the signature campaign was being undertaken solely after the announcement by the prime minister and refused to comment on a recent government circular that stated a committee has been formed to look into the demand. On April 2 this year, the Union tribal affairs ministry issued an order stating it had decided to constitute a committee which would be headed by Ashok Pal, joint secretary to the tribal affairs ministry, for examining and making recommendations on the issue of granting tribal status to the 11 communities in question.
“We do not want to comment on the formation of the committee as it is official work requiring due process. All we have to say is that no matter what, we should get tribal status. And we feel that through the signature campaign we want to tell the prime minister to grant it as soon as possible,” said Gurung, adding the list of signatures garnered would be sent to the prime minister on a regular basis.
The BGJSM also said that after the Assembly election results on May 19, they would hold a meeting with GJM chief Bimal Gurung to plan future programmes. They will also try to meet central ministers and the prime minister too if possible, to pursue the much sought-after demand.