The Telegraph
Thursday , January 16 , 2014
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Tribal signal to CM

Jan. 15: The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad wants to felicitate Mamata Banerjee at Nagrakata in Jalpaiguri on February 25, the show of support crucial in the tribal belt where the Left Front holds the two Lok Sabha seats.

The Parishad said the chief minister had confirmed that she would be present in Nagrakata on that date.

The outfit, which is apolitical and has crucial support in the tea gardens in the Dooars, wants to thank the chief minister for forming a separate tribal affairs department, setting up a tribal council, allowing a holiday for Karam Puja and the sanction for the Hindi College of Bengal in the Dooars.

In Siliguri subdivision and Jalpaiguri district, the Parishad has sizeable support.

The outfit came into prominence because of its anti-Gorkhaland stand — the Parishad did not want mouzas in the Dooars and Terai to be part of Gorkhaland. On this issue, the outfit is on the same page as the state government.

“After the new government was formed, we gave a charter of demands to the chief minister for the development of tribals. Since then, the state and the chief minister have taken initiatives to meet a number of our demands. Our demands include setting up of a tribal advisory council and a separate tribal welfare department,” said Birsa Tirkey, the state president of the Parishad.

“The state laid the foundation stone for the first Hindi college of Bengal in the Dooars and announced a holiday for Karam Puja,” he added.

“As a mark of appreciation for her steps, the Adivasi Vikas Parishad has decided to felicitate her. On December 19, we received a confirmation (of her presence),” Tirkey said.

According to Parishad sources, the function would be held at the European Club grounds in Nagrakata.

The significance of the felicitation is not lost on Trinamul, which has made inroads into north Bengal with every successive election.

“If the Parishad and the tribals are felicitating the chief minister for her initiatives, it is evident that they are supporting the plans and policies of Trinamul,” said a Trinamul leader from Jalpaiguri.

“As we launch our campaign for the Parliament polls, eyeing the seats of Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Darjeeling, Malda and Balurghat in north Bengal which have a considerable tribal population, we would highlight the honour given to Mamata Banerjee as it is the first time that the tribal community in Bengal has decided to honour a chief minister for her work,” he added.