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Dhimals cry for ST status

Mallabari (Naxalbari), March 9: The Dhimals have decided to come together to press the government for the fulfilment of their long-standing demand for Scheduled Tribe status, even as the Cultural Research Institute, Calcutta, submitted a report of its survey on the endangered community to the government last month.

The survey was the first of its kind on the Indo-Mongoloid ethnic group of the Kirat family which has less than 950 people now and is spread over three-four villages along the India-Nepal border in Naxalbari.

“It was a very exhaustive survey and we have made our observations on all aspects of their life,” S.K. Dutta, director, CRI, told The Telegraph from Calcutta.

“We are happy with the government’s initiative,” Garjan Mallik, the secretary of the Dhimal Astitva Raksha Committee, said. “We want to prepare our people for a larger struggle if the talks with the government fail. We are working towards mobilising our people and keeping them motivated to fight for a cause. We have already held a few meetings. To begin with, we will submit a memorandum to the sub-divisional officer before March end.”

“The 1931 census showed a head count of 375, but after that, the Dhimals mysteriously vanished from the census reports. But like any tribe, we have all the characteristics —distinct language, culture, social customs, nature worshipping — and above all, we are a threatened lot with most of us reduced to landless agricultural labourers,” said Malbar Mallik, a former sabhapati with the local panchayat samity.

About five years ago, the Dhimals were put in the OBC category, but they refused to register themselves with the government to be included in the category.

According to Dutta, the community would have to fulfil many criteria, the most important of which is that they have to be a unadulterated and should retain the original traits and habits, for the ST status.

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