A rally taken out by the ABGL, a Morcha rival, in Darjeeling on Sunday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, March 22: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is set to “revise” the “secret proposal” sent to the Centre on the interim arrangement for the hills to safeguard the interests of the Schedule Castes.
The Morcha, in its proposal to Union home minister P. Chidambaram, had said “all Gorkha communities should be given Schedule Tribe status”.
Today, Morcha president Bimal Gurung while addressing party supporters at Mahanadi in Kurseong said: “We will make some revisions in the proposal largely to safeguard the interest of the Schedule Castes in the hills. The privileges the community is currently receiving should not be diluted. We will write to the Centre soon.” The details of the content of the letter have not been spelt out.
Observers say that since the SCs already have safeguards through job reservation and reserved seats during elections, they would gain little through conversion to STs. In fact, they would stand to lose much as they would have to share the reservation with the entire hills if all the communities there were made STs.
In the past, when GNLF president Subash Ghisingh signed an agreement with the Centre and the state for the inclusion of the Darjeeling hills in the Sixth Schedule, the Scheduled Castes had openly opposed the agreement, demanding safeguard of their rights.
The opposition was led by the Akhil Bharatiya Nepali Anushuit Jati Sangh, an organisation fighting for the rights of the SCs. Even though the Sangh was not directly against conferring the Sixth Schedule status on the hills, it wanted a special mention of the SCs, saying otherwise their rights would be diluted.
The demand was made as the new council under the Sixth Schedule — to be called the Gorkha Hill Council Darjeeling — had 10 seats reserved for the STs and three for other unrepresented minorities in the proposed 33-member body.
The SCs wanted a special reservation on the lines of the STs in the GHCD till the process of conversion of the Scheduled Castes to Scheduled Tribes was over. The Scheduled Castes believed that conversion to STs was a long and arduous process, as they had to be first de-notified from the SC list and then included in the ST list after much research.
While Schedule Tribes constitute 34 per cent of the hill community, 9.7 per cent comprise the SCs.
Such was the anger against Ghisingh’s Sixth Schedule proposal that the late K.S. Ramudamu, who was the president of the Sangh, joined the Morcha when it was formed to become the party’s vice-president.