Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, July 20: The Nepali Scheduled Caste community in the hills has been vertically split by Mamata Banerjee’s decision to form separate development boards for Biswakarmas, Damais and Sarkis with various factions staking claim to the bodies.
Biswakarma (Kami), Damai and Sarki make up the Nepali SC community whose members as a whole avail themselves of various constitutional benefits. For example, Biswakarmas, Damais and Sarkis can contest a seat reserved for the SC community in elections and get reservation in jobs.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced the three separate development boards for the three SC communities in Darjeeling on July 13. With the announcement, the Darjeeling Indigenous Scheduled Caste Welfare Association and different other organisation have been demanding that they be allowed to form the boards.
Vivek Sewa, the president of the indigenous Scheduled Caste association, which had been demanding one board for the entire SC community of the hills, said: “The boards have been formed because of our struggle since 2012. Now, people who were not part of the struggle and have no support base are staking claim to the boards. We demand that the development boards be constituted taking our association into confidence. Our association should be allowed to monitor the boards.”
Sewa said he was confident that the government would give the association the responsibility to run the boards and claimed that most of the SC people in the hills were with the indigenous Scheduled Caste association. “Since we were the ones to get the boards, we might even reject them if the need arises,” said Sewa.
Some SC people who embraced other religions are also members of the indigenous Scheduled Caste association.
Three other organisations, Nepali Damai Samaj, Bharatiya Nepali (Gorkha) Sarki Samaj and Shree Biswakarma Samaj, have released a joint statement saying people who converted from Hinduism to other religions don’t belong to the SC but Other Backward Classes as per a government notification. The statement said such people should not try to take the privileges accorded to the SC members.
Biswakarma Youth Association (BYA) demanded that it be allowed to run the board for Biswakarmas and claimed that all other organisations like Sri Biswakarma Samaj, except indigenous Scheduled Caste association, had supported the claim. “We were the first to seek a board only for Biswakarmas. Since a board has been given for us, we think we are able to decide for ourselves. We have no problems if Vivek Sewa, who is a Damai, heads the development board for the Damai community,” said Dipesh Singh Ghatani, the secretary of the BYA.
The Damai community has also formed the Damai Development Board Demanding Committee. Binam Ranapaheli, the general secretary of the committee, said: “The committee has the support of the Damai community in the hills as well as the plains.”
Similarly, there is one Sarki Development Board Demanding Committee.
G.N. Lomjel, the president of the Bharatiya Nepali (Gorkha) Sarki Samity, said: “Our organisation supports the Sarki board demanding committee. A board has been announced for Sarki community and why should an association which claims to represents all SC communities, including Harjians and dhobis, be in charge of the board for Sarkis,” said Lomjel, opposing the indigenous Scheduled Caste association’s demand.
Lomjel said the SC community formed 17. 5 per cent of the 8.75 lakh-strong hill population.
Sewa, along with four other members, today left for Calcutta to meet Mamata, Trinamul leader Aroop Biswas and state government officials.