(Left) Mamata Banerjee plays a small drum as she watches Tamang women dance; women from the hills in their traditional gear listen to the chief minister’s speech. Pictures by Pradip Sanyal
Mirik, Jan. 21: Mamata Banerjee today announced a development and cultural board for Tamangs, one of the largest communities among Gorkhas in Darjeeling, while other groups submitted requests for similar bodies to the chief minister.
“We have decided to set up a development and cultural board for the Tamang community, where they can take care of their needs. The way the Lepcha development council is working I am very happy,” Mamata told the public meeting beside the Mirik Lake that was attended by over 6,000 people, many of them Tamangs in their traditional attire.
Mamata also spoke about bringing development to the hills through education, which had been her focus during earlier visits.
The Sherpa community today requested Mamata for a similar body for the community. The All Sherpa Buddhist Council’s co-ordinator, Nima Wangdai Sherpa, met Mamata at Mirik and submitted a memorandum mentioning the demand. “We have submitted our memorandum to the chief minister, demanding a development board similar to the one she has formed for the Lepchas… We hope she will listen to us,” Sherpa said.
The community has around 1.45 lakh members spread across the hills and parts of the Dooars and Terai.
Mamata said the nitty-gritty like the name of the Tamang board and other formalities would be taken care of after she returns to Calcutta. The first such board under the state government was formed for the Lepchas.
The chief minister hinted that a similar body would be created for the Rais, another Gorkha community. She said there was “some thought being put into” the demand made by the Rais. Other than the Rais, the Limbus and Bhutias have also asked for a similar apolitical cultural board.
Members of all these communities were invited to attend the event organised by the Tamang Youth Association where they presented their memorandum of demands to the chief minister today.
Mamata today said the state would write to the Centre for Scheduled Tribe status to the indigenous tribes in the hills that make up for nearly 33.72 per cent of the population.
“There are indigenous tribal communities in the hills and we have decided to request the Centre to grant these communities Scheduled Tribe status. This is not under our purview but the Centre’s. Considering the gravity of the situation and the future of the brothers and sisters… we will do what we can,” she said.
Playing the development card, the chief minister announced plans to set up medical and engineering colleges in the hills.
“I want you all to live peacefully and move forward. I want you to join medical colleges, engineering colleges. I want industry and IT fairs to be held in the hills. We are together and we will fight together to move ahead,” Mamata said.