Bimal Gurung at the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan in Darjeeling on Thursday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Aug. 21: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung today assured the 10 hill communities demanding Scheduled Tribe status that he would seek an update on their demand from the Union tribal affairs minister.
Gurung, who also helms the GTA, is scheduled to leave for Delhi on August 27. He will lay the foundation stone for a Gorkha Bhavan in the national capital on August 29.
The demand for ST status is a long-standing one of the 10 communities — they are Bhujel, Gurung, Mangar, Newar, Jogi, Khas, Rai, Sunuwar, Thami and Yakkha (Dewan) — and the state government had forwarded the list to the Centre.
Along with these communities, the Dhimal community in the foothills also sought ST status.
Gurung had met the tribal affairs minister Jual Oram recently in Delhi and had come away saying that he had got a “positive response” on the ST status.
The ST status of the hill communities had come under a cloud after an RTI query revealed in June that the Union ministry for tribal affairs had withdrawn the proposal of granting Schedule Tribe status to the 10 Darjeeling hill communities. The 10 hill communities' cumulative population is around 55 per cent in the hills.
Mamata had sent the request for their ST status to the Centre in February about a fortnight before the model code of conduct was to be imposed for the Lok Sabha elections.
“Ideally, the proposal should have been vetted by the state cabinet. But the chief minister does not want to delay the process and it will be mentioned in the cabinet later,” an official had said. Sources had said that the state government’s move to seek ST status was a political stunt ahead of the polls as a survey has shown that most of the communities din’t fulfil the economic and social criteria needed for the tag.
Observers were of the opinion that Mamata had taken the decision to woo the hill voters as the issue of inclusion in the ST list is the most sought-after demand by the non-tribal communities in the hills, apart from the statehood issue.
Gurung today said: “During my visit to Delhi, I will also meet the Union tribal affairs minister to ask about the progress being made on the demand for granting tribal status.”
Morcha rival Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) today said it would mark Citizenship Day on August 23 to celebrate the purported “clarification” on the citizenship of Nepali-speaking Indian citizens.
On August 22, 1988, the Centre, state and the GNLF had signed a memorandum of settlement for the formation of the now repealed Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).
Since the GNLF was also raising the issue of lack of clarity on the issue of citizenship of the Nepali speaking Indians — citing Article VII of the Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1950 — the Centre had come up with a notification on August 23, 1988, stating that all residents living in India before January 26, 1950 are Indian nationals.
The GNLF had said in 1986 that this article is creating confusion about the citizenship of Nepali speaking Indian citizens. Ghisingh’s party believes that the August 23, 1988, notification has clarified the citizenship of Nepali speaking Indians.