Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Tamang (Golay) plans to lead a delegation to the Centre to seek Schedule Tribe status for the left-out Gorkha communities in the first week of December, a BJP promise that has remained unfilled for four-and-a-half years.
The BJP had pledged to grant tribal status to 11 hill communities in its 2019 Lok Sabha election manifesto. Golay’s Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) is an ally of the BJP.
Sources said Golay held a meeting with representatives of various ethnic communities in Gangtok on Friday.
“He affirmed the government’s support (to the demand for tribal status) and announced his firm dedication to lead a delegation, tentatively in the first week of December, to approach the central authorities. The delegation will meet the Prime Minister, home minister and persons concerned in the ministry of tribal affairs,” a source said.
The BJP’s failure to grant tribal status and also work out a permanent political solution for the Darjeeling-Terai-Dooars region has been a major embarrassment for the party and its allies in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The Sikkim Assembly elections are usually held with the Lok Sabha polls.
The communities demanding tribal status are Bhujel, Gurung, Mangar, Newar, Jogi, Khas, Rai, Sunuwar, Thami, Yakka (Dewan) and Dhimal. These communities form the majority of the population of Sikkim, apart from the Darjeeling region.
The governments of both Bengal and Sikkim have already forwarded to the Centre their recommendation for the grant of tribal status to these communities.
The Union ministry of tribal affairs had formed a committee in 2016 to examine the plea for and recommend tribal status to these 11 communities. Since then, the committee has been reconstituted thrice and the final report compiled by a team headed by M.R. Tshering, joint secretary, ministry of tribal affairs, in 2019 had put the onus on the Office of the Registrar General of India (ORGI).
“The determination has to be done as per the modalities of the government. ORGI is the competent authority to determine if a community is as per its yardstick for listing as Schedule Tribe,” the report had stated.
Even before the report was submitted by the committee, the ORGI had twice rejected the proposal sent by the Bengal and Sikkim governments to grant ST status on various grounds.