The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Year-end meet on special status

Darjeeling, Dec. 18: More than a year after the Centre, state government and Subash Ghisingh inked a memorandum of settlement to incorporate the hills under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, efforts are being made to understand the intricacies of the new provision on a neutral ground.

Nagarik Suraksha Samiti, a social organisation based here, has decided to organise an open session — devoid of any political hue — on the special status issue on December 29 at Gymkhana Club Hall here.

“Taking into consideration the lack of clear knowledge about the Sixth Schedule, we have decided to organise a session without any political leanings. We want experts to speak on the issue and (then) leave it to the people to understand the provisions,” said Lalit Tewari, the general secretary of the samiti.

For more than a year, discussions on the special status have only been on the political platform. While the GNLF has termed the Sixth Schedule a historic development for the hill people, the Opposition has categorically rejected the provision and have put forth its own interpretation to warn the hill people and prevent them from accepting the new status.

“We will ensure that even the speakers invited for the meet do not have any political leanings,” said Tewari, adding that the list of speakers is expected to be finalised within “three to four days”.

The samiti, which has in the past focused on issues concerning the welfare of citizens, has decided to extend invitation to all social organisations in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong to attend the meet.

The Sixth Schedule entails providing legislative powers to the new dispensation. However, there are certain areas — like the setting up of a separate judicial system according to tribal laws — that have not been fully clarified.

While such provisions are there in the Constitution specifically to safeguard tribal customs and traditional laws, it is not yet known if such a system could be worked out for Gorkha Hill Council, Darjeeling — the body which is to be set up once the Sixth Schedule is enforced in the hills.

People here have found it difficult to fully understand the provisions of the new status as different bodies like the Bodo Territorial Council or the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, set up under the Sixth Schedule, have slight variations in the provisions enshrined for their functioning.

“We are holding the session with a very open mind and have no political leaning or any preconceived notions,” said Tewari.

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