Some of the chairs kept for MLAs at the convention. Picture by Prabin Khaling
Gangtok, Dec. 8: All 13 Bhutia and Lepcha MLAs from the ruling SDF today stayed away from a convention held to deliberate on the issues affecting the communities, saying the organisers had political motives.
Around 2,000 people from across Sikkim attended the convention, March to Gangtok, held at the BL House in Gangtok. The session was organised by the Bhutia Lepcha Protection Force, formed earlier this year.
The organisers had sent invitations to all the 13 MLAs and seats were reserved for them at the convention.
The MLAs confirmed that they had received the invitations.
“The Bhutia and Lepcha MLAs were elected with public mandate and we know the problems faced by the two communities. Our government has been working on them. There were some people who had political motives and attended the meeting. We would have taken part in the meeting, if persons with political interests hadn’t been present,” said an MLA who didn’t want to be named.
The MLA didn’t explain what he meant by “political interests”.
The leaders of the protection force say the Bhutias and Lepchas number around 1.2 lakh in the Himalayan state, whose total population is 6.5 lakh.
Under Article 371F of the Constitution, the two communities enjoy certain privileges. The land owned by the members of the two communities cannot be sold to outsiders and 13 seats of the Sikkim Assembly are reserved for the Bhutias and Lepchas.
The total strength of the House is 32.
The advisor to the protection force, Kesang Dorjee, said the organisers were unhappy with the absence of the MLAs. “We had personally sent invitations to all Bhutia and Lepcha MLAs to the convention that discussed the problems of the two communities. We are displeased to see that none of them has turned up. The reason is best known to them,” said Dorjee.
He said 12 resolutions had been passed at the convention. Some of them are on special protection for the Lepchas, check on the influx of migrants to Sikkim, objections to developmental works which affect the religious sites and protection of Article 371F of the Constitution.