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Tamangs echo Lepcha plea

Kalimpong, Dec. 1: An association of Tamang youths has said it wants a development body in line with the Lepcha board that the state government has formed under it in the hills.

The Tamang Youth Association organised a rally in Kalimpong yesterday to highlight the demand.

The Tamangs, who are Scheduled Tribes, are one of the largest communities in the hills. Although the Tamang Youth Association is not the biggest outfit of the community, the timing of the demand is significant.

The association has started its campaign when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has been trying to mend fences with the government after months of acrimony.

The association has decided to take out “solidarity rallies” in Kurseong and Darjeeling, too, to press for the development council. Yesterday’s rally, which had about 5,000 Tamangs, was the first such meeting.

Buddha Tamang, the president of the association’s Kalimpong sub-divisional committee, said the campaign would ensure the participation of both Buddhist and Christian Tamangs.

Asked if the Tamangs wanted the council to be formed under the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, Buddha Tamang said they preferred the body to be under the government. “If the board is under the GTA, only the Tamangs who live in the hills would benefit. We want it to be formed under the state government.”

The formation of the Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board had upset the Morcha, which had wanted the small hill community to keep the outfit under the purview of the GTA.

The government, however, formed it under the backward classes welfare department in February. Morcha chief Bimal Gurung had then said Mamata Banerjee was following a “divide and rule” policy.

Today, asked about the Tamangs’ demand for their own board, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: “We have nothing to comment.”

Some Tamang community leaders said Mamata had indicated that her government was inclined towards forming a development board for them during her visit to Kalimpong in early September.

Amit Tamang, the secretary of the association’s Kalimpong unit, said the demand for the “Tamang development council” was also to ensure the all-round progress of the community.

“The unique culture and tradition of the Tamangs have not been taken care of by successive governments. We believe the formation of the council will help us preserve, protect and promote our traditional heritage and ensure socio-economic development of our community across the hills, Dooars and Terai,” he said.The Tamangs are predominantly Buddhists, but a small number follow Christianity.

A leader of the Tamang Youth Association said: “Our estimate is that there are about 3.5 lakh Tamangs in the hills and another 1.5 lakh in the Dooars and Terai.”

The Tamangs have their own music, dress and dialect of Nepali.