The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Opp. for court debate

Darjeeeling, Aug. 17: With the Bengal government and Subash Ghisingh inking a memorandum of settlement to include the Darjeeling hills within the Sixth Schedule without a public debate, the ABGL is bracing up to file a petition with the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court.

Since the ABGL believes that the Darjeeling hills do not fulfil even the basic criteria — like predominant tribal population — for the special status, it has decided to debate the issue at the highest forum of the country.

Madan Tamang, president, ABGL, said: “Legal experts in New Delhi have suggested that we approach the Constitution bench.” According to Opposition parties in the hills, the Bengal government is looking forward to the formulation of Article 371 (J) so that the powers and functions of the new dispensation can be framed under the state law. “But anyone who has read the Constitution will know that the Sixth Schedule does not allow any such thing,” said Tamang.

Therefore, it follows that what is being offered is not the Sixth Schedule (since the proposed dispensation would be formed under state laws), but something similar. The ABGL president stands vindicated especially after Asok Bhattacharya, the state municipal affairs minister, recently said the powers and functions of the “unique” Sixth Schedule would be framed under the state law.

“The government is only keen about fulfilling Ghisingh’s demand for powers enjoyed by the chairman of Bodo Territorial Council. It will definitely not be the Sixth Schedule enshrined in the Constitution,” said Tamang.

The ABGL also launched a vitriolic attack on the recent visit of a Cultural Research Institute team to look into ways of granting tribal status to the hill population.

“The proposal to enlist the Gurungs and Rais as Scheduled Tribes is already pending. But the government is avoiding it, as the recognition would mean that more than 50 per cent of the hill population will become tribals.”

“Once this happens, the state will be forced to give the real Sixth Schedule,” he added. Currently, only about 34 per cent residents here are tribals.

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