|Ghisingh with journalists in front of his house. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Dec. 20: Subash Ghisingh today said it was not necessary for the GNLF to attend the hearing in Delhi as he has already written to the Standing Committee apprising it of the party’s stand.
“People here were classified as hill tribes by the British in 1931. I have told Delhi that all of them should now be granted the same status. I have sought an explanation from the chief minister as to why the status has vanished. He too seems to have understood,” said the GNLF president.
Ghisingh claimed that the argument has been conveyed to Sushma Swaraj, the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Home Affairs — the panel to which the Sixth Schedule amendment bill conferring the special status on the Darjeeling hills has been referred.
The confusion, according to Ghisingh, has been created by the Fifth Schedule. “It is in this part of the Constitution that people are classified as tribals, non-tribals, Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes. The Sixth Schedule has nothing to do with the tribal status. Rather the Fifth Schedule has to be used to grant tribal status to the hills,” said Ghisingh during an interaction with reporters in front of his house on Dr Zakhir Hussain Road here.
The Fifth Schedule, however, deals with the administration of tribal areas that do not come under the Sixth Schedule.
Accusing a section of reporters of “misinterpreting” his statements on the statehood, Ghisingh said since Gorkhaland, an issue “first” raised by him, was sentimental in nature, it would always exist. “This explains why people raise it often. However, we must be practical and should understand when to bring it up,” he said.
Ghisingh added that the Gorkhaland demand was dropped “only in paper” while signing the tripartite DGHC Accord in 1988. “Otherwise we would not even have got the council. I don’t want to lie to the people. The only practical thing that is happening now is that the Sixth Schedule is set to be implemented after two years of signing the Memorandum of Settlement.”
The GNLF leader said he was not unhappy over the delay in passing the bill. “It is giving us a chance to demand tribal status for the people.”
In Delhi, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which has formed a unit there, staged a dharna in front of Parliament against the Sixth Schedule. Sources said all the Opposition parties which attended the two-hour meeting with the Standing Committee have spoken in favour of statehood and have rejected the Sixth Schedule status.