Ghisingh on tribal status mission

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Siliguri
  • Published 23.01.06
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Siliguri, Jan. 23: A month-and-a-half after successfully negotiating the in-principle granting of Sixth Schedule status to the Darjeeling hills, GNLF leader Subash Ghisingh embarked on another mission today.

This time, on an agenda to secure Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for the Gorkha community.

A relaxed-looking Ghisingh left for New Delhi to meet the chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, Kunwar Singh, and push the case for the granting of ST status to the hill community. ?My effort is to secure ST status for Gurungs, Rais, Mangars, Khawas and Bahuns,? Ghisingh told reporters at Pintail Village here before heading for Bagdogra to board a plane to the capital.

Ghisingh, in fact, has already written to Singh on the issue.

He categorically ruled out reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes in the proposed 33-member council. The tripartite agreement under the Sixth Schedule envisages the reservation of 10 seats for STs in the new council.

At present, only 35 per cent of the people residing in the hills are from recognised tribal communities.

Notably, ever since he returned from New Delhi after signing the December 6 agreement on Sixth Schedule with the Centre and the state government, the GNLF leader has used every forum to highlight the ?tribal roots? of the Gorkhas. ?Much before we started the practice of idol worship, we were worshippers of stones and streams,? Ghisingh told reporters.

He denied that his party had issued a ban on idol worship in the hills for the Saraswati Puja. ?That is not true...We are not against the worship of idols. Hindus and Muslims are free to worship as they like,? he said.

On his strategy for the coming Assembly elections, the caretaker administrator of the DGHC said he was yet to give it a thought. ?Elections are too far away. A week would suffice for us to get ready for it,? he added.