Darjeeling: The Sikkim government has approached the Centre to recognise Lepcha, Bhutia and Limbu languages in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, the move coming at a time when the crucial state Assembly elections are drawing near.
Sikkim chief minister, Prem Singh Tamang (Golay) spoke about the development during an interactive session with Lepcha bongthings (priests) in Gangtok on Sunday.
“The chief minister informed that the state government has formally approached the central government to advocate for the inclusion of Lepcha, Limbu and Bhutia languages in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution,” the source said.
The Schedule so far recognises 22 languages, including Bengali and Nepali. Of these languages, 14 were initially included in the Constitution while Sidhi was added in 1967 followed by Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali in 1992.
The last amendment for language inclusion was done in 2004 when Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali were included.
“The inclusion of the language promotes preservation, promotion, research and development by the government through different means. A language under the Schedule can be a medium of instruction in educational institutions and also a language to legislate and communicate in the Assembly and Parliament,” explained a linguist on the importance of the 8th Schedule.
The demand to include the Lepcha language in the schedule has also gathered steam in neighbouring Darjeeling hills of Bengal with the community people recently holding a public meeting in Siliguri. There is a significant presence of Bhutia and Limbus in the Darjeeling-Dooars region as well.
In Sikkim, 12 of the 32 Assembly seats are reserved for the Bhutia- Lepcha community which are known as BL seats. “The community plays a significant role in government formation and the decision might also have been taken keeping in mind the 2024 Sikkim Assembly elections,” said a source.
The BL community comprises 16. 5 per cent of Sikkim’s population while the Limbus account for around 9.79 percent of the nearly 7 lakh population.
Sources said that Golay also shared the government’s plan to construct a Lepcha Bhawan in the state.
“The government is also sponsoring the Lepcha bongthings' pilgrimage to Pokhara, Kathmandu and Halesi in Nepal,” said a source.
The team comprises 17 bongthings from six Sikkim districts, along with four officials, five guides and 12 college students.