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Gurung meet on ST status

Darjeeling, Feb. 27: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung has decided to call a meeting on March 5 with representatives of the 10 hill communities that are seeking Scheduled Tribe status following state’s decision to recommend to the Centre about the status.

Sources at Nabanna had said yesterday that a note would soon be put before the state cabinet to send a recommendation to the Centre to give ST status to the Rai, Yakkha, Gurung, Bhujel, Newar, Jogi, Sunwar-Mukhia, Mangar, Khas and Thami communities in the hills.

However, a survey by the state has shown that most of the communities don’t fulfil the economic and social criteria to be accorded the ST tag.

At the Morcha’s subdivisional committee office in Darjeeling today, Gurung said: “The Morcha has always demanded that the 10 communities be given ST status. I have already welcomed the government’s decision to recommend to the Centre the ST status for the 10 communities. We have invited the representative of the 10 communities to a meeting in Darjeeling on March 5. Along with them, we will vigorously pursue the demand.”

Sources said that in the event of the Centre agreeing to grant ST status to the 10 communities, Gurung did not want the state government to get the credit.

“The ST demand is second in prominence after the cry for statehood in the hills. If the Centre gives the nod for the ST status by chance, the Trinamul Congress would be the gainer. The Morcha doesn’t want Trinamul to steal the show and this explains Gurung’s immediate decision to convene a meeting with representatives of all 10 hill communities,” said a source.

Senior government officials said the decision to recommend the ST status for the 10 hill communities was a political move. The state was aware that most of the communities did not meet the criteria for getting the ST status, the official said.

“Even then, the Morcha does not want Trinamul to hog the limelight, especially when Lok Sabha elections are approaching,” said the observer.

Gurung today said he would soon start visiting all 45 GTA Sabha constituencies “to understand people’s needs better”.

He reiterated the Morcha’s stand that the party would not support Mahendra P. Lama, a former vice-chancellor of Sikkim Central University, who would contest from the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat as an Independent.

The Morcha chief said he was “hurt” when P. Arjun, a study forum member, announced his support for Lama without informing him. Arjun has been suspended from the study forum.

Gurung said the Morcha would hold its public meeting at Sukna on March 9, instead of March 2.