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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Tamang, GTA head Anit Thapa aim for stronger ties

Golay and Thapa were invited by the Rai community for their Sakela Ubauli festival in Darjeeling on Sunday

Vivek Chhetri Darjeeling Published 27.05.24, 10:32 AM
Sikkim chief minister PS Tamang (Golay) greets people with folded hands, accompanied by GTA chief Anit Thapa (right) at the Kirat Khambu Rai Sanskriti Sansthan’s Sakela festival in Darjeeling on Sunday

Sikkim chief minister PS Tamang (Golay) greets people with folded hands, accompanied by GTA chief Anit Thapa (right) at the Kirat Khambu Rai Sanskriti Sansthan’s Sakela festival in Darjeeling on Sunday Picture by Passang Yolmo

Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Tamang (Golay) and the chief executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Anit Thapa shared a dais at a public forum for the first time on Sunday.

Both Nepali-speaking leaders expressed their commitment to work together on community issues, keeping aside their political differences.

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While Golay is aligned with the BJP, Thapa, who also heads the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha, backs the Trinamool Congress.

Golay and Thapa were invited by the Rai community for their Sakela Ubauli festival in Darjeeling on Sunday.

The two leaders walked together in a rally from near Darjeeling railway station to Chowrasta and shared the stage where both stressed the need to work together to get tribal status for the left-out Gorkha communities.

Golay reminisced his college days in Darjeeling from 1985 to 1989, when the hills were burning during the Gorkhaland agitation. He told the crowd how he also had to flee during police raids during the middle of the night.

“Today (Sunday), I have been invited as a chief minister of Sikkim and this is a huge honour for Sikkim too.... Politics is in its own place and we would not want to interfere, but we in Sikkim and Darjeeling also share very close cultural, community ties. We must work together on raising certain community-centric issues,” said Golay.

The Sikkim chief minister specifically pointed out the tribal status issue. “We must work together on tribal issues. While there are 11 communities in Darjeeling, there are 12 communities in Sikkim (demanding Scheduled Tribe status). We must work together and take this issue forward,” said Golay.

In Darjeeling, the 11 communities demanding ST status are Bhujel, Gurung, Mangar, Newar, Jogi, Khas, Rai, Sunuwar, Thami, Yakka (Dewan) and Dhimal. The Maji community in Sikkim is its twelfth.

The Sikkim chief minister stated that issues like the inclusion of the Nepali language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution succeeded when leaders of Sikkim and Darjeeling joined hands. Sikkim MP Dil Kumari Bhandari played a pivotal role in getting Nepali recognised in 1992.

Thapa, who spoke before Golay, said that the entire Nepali-speaking community must be proud of Golay.

“He is the only chief minister from our community and we must be proud of this fact,” said Thapa.

The GTA chief executive also requested Golay to take forward the tribal issue. “Politics is in its place. We can work (together) on our own issues. I request Golay sahib to take the lead on this issue,” said Thapa.

The BJP in its 2019 Lok Sabha poll manifesto promised a tribal status to the 11 Gorkha communities but in vain. There was no mention of it in the party’s 2024 manifesto.

Golay said a help desk was being set up in Gangtok hospitals for patients from outside Sikkim.

“Sikkim's health facilities have improved a lot. Many patients from this region are coming to Sikkim. Medical expenses are one-fourth in Sikkim compared to private nursing homes in Siliguri,” said Golay. “We are setting up help desks for patients coming from outside the state.”

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