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. Though the Tamang Youth Association is not the biggest outfit of the community, the timing of the demand is significant.
The outfit has begun its campaign when the Morcha has been trying to mend fences with the state government after months of acrimony.
The Tamang Youth Association has decided to hold “solidarity rallies” in Kurseong and Darjeeling, too, to galvanise the members of the community in support of 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 subdivisional 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 GTA, Buddha Tamang said they preferred the body to be under the government. “If the board is under the GTA, only those Tamangs living in the hills would benefit. We want it to be formed under the state government for the benefit of our community members living in other parts of Bengal also.”
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 state backward classes welfare department in February. Morcha chief Bimal Gurung said chief minister Mamata Banerjee was following a “divide and rule” policy in the hills.
Today, asked about the Tamangs’ demand for their own board, Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: “We have nothing to comment on the Tamangs’ demand.”
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.
“Our representatives had met the chief minister during her visit to Kalimpong on September 3. Her response to our demand has been positive. We are awaiting the announcement of the date of the chief minister’s visit. Once she intimates us about the date, we will organise a huge programme either in Kurseong or Mirik to welcome her. We are expecting to host the programme sometime in January next year,” said Buddha Tamang.
Amit Tamang, the secretary of the association’s Kalimpong unit, said his outfit welcomed the development initiative of the state government and the demand for “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 also ensure socio-economic development of our community who are spread across the hills, Dooars and Terai,” he said.
The Tamangs are predominantly Buddhists but a small number follow Christianity. They are scattered across the hills, Dooars and Terai.
Even though there is no official confirmation of Tamang population, 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.