Kalimpong, Feb. 7: Forty-five Lepcha activists under the Lepcha Rights Movement today started a fast unto death saying they would prefer to sacrifice their lives than live in a situation of strife.
Bhupendra Lepcha, the convener of the Lepcha Rights Movement which is an umbrella body of Lepcha outfits, did not name any party in the hills but said the community was saddened by the opposition to the formation of the Mayel Lyang Development Board, which was approved by the state cabinet on Tuesday.
“We are a peace-loving people. We can’t comprehend why there is so much opposition to us. Since it appears we will not be able to live in peace, we have decided to sacrifice our lives,” he said.
The Morcha has called a 12-hour bandh in the GTA area on Saturday to oppose the state government’s move to form the development board for Lepchas.
Asked about the fast unto death of the Lepchas at Tricone Park in Kalimpong, Morcha secretary Roshan Giri did not make any direct comment.
He said his party, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, was opposed to the board because the GTA has already passed a resolution for the setting up such a board for Lepchas under the hill authority.
“There cannot be two administrations to oversee a department which has been transferred to the GTA,” said Giri. According to the cabinet decision, the Lepcha board will be set up under the backward classes welfare department.
Bhupendra Lepcha did not want to comment on the Morcha’s stand opposing the formation of the board.
Asked if the strike called by the Morcha was the reason for their protest, he did not give a direct response, but said the Lepchas were hurt by the all-round opposition to their demand for the development board, for which they had waged a long struggle.
“The hunger strike will only be in Kalimpong and nowhere else in the hills. More and more people from different parts of the hills will start pouring in from tomorrow and some of them will join the fast unto death,” he said.
Unlike the Morcha, other parties in the hills are not opposed to the Lepcha board, but have expressed their reservation with the name, Mayel Lyang Lepcha, which loosely means the land of the Lepchas.
ABGL secretary Pratap Khati had said, they would prefer the name Lepcha Development Board for the propose body since it is being formed to look after the interest of the Lepcha community, their language and culture. The Lepchas do not have any territorial demand.