More than 50,000 Uttarakhand natives congregated at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Sunday, in what they called the Uttarakhand Mahakumbh, demanding honour and justice and action on key socio-cultural issues concerning the hill state.
Uttarakhandis residing in Delhi, National Capital Region (NCR), Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Chandigarh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Maharashtra came together under the aegis of Uttarakhand Ekta Manch Delhi, a non-political collective of various groups working for state’s issues.
Giving a clarion call, ‘Ekjut Ekmut’ (to unite) for “honour and justice”, the hill community said their concerns remain unaddressed even after 16 years of the state’s carving out from Uttar Pradesh.
Their demands included justice for martyrs of the Uttarakhand formation movement, declaring Gairsain the state’s capital, stopping migration, constitutional recognition for regional languages, stopping loot of the state’s natural resources and government support for hill festivals.
“It’s been over 16 years (since Uttarakhand’s formation) but many of its key issues are yet to be addressed, for which we feel that the successive governments are equally responsible. We want to act as a pressure group for getting the concerns answered,” Digmohan Negi, one of the founders of Uttarakhand Ekta Manch Delhi, told HT over phone from Delhi.
He said the state’s languages Garhwali and Kumaoni are still considered dialects and demanded their inclusion in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
“Gairsain (which is almost equidistant from Garhwal and Kumaon regions of the state) is yet to be made the state’s capital,” Negi rued.
Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat addressed the gathering over phone and assured action on the demands.
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia assured assistance for celebration of hill festival Uttaraini-Makraini at 40 places and setting up of an Uttarakhand Akademi in the national capital, where thousands of Uttarakhandis are residing.
Noted Uttarakhandi singer Narendra Singh Negi recited a song specially written for the gathering through which he exhorted locals to join hands for the cause of the hills. “It’s only through unity that we can make our voices be heard,” he said.
“It is just the beginning of the fight of the pahadi (community). We’re glad we could highlight our concerns on the national level,” Uttarakhand-based activist Amit Gusain ‘Pahadi’ who works for hill culture’s promotion, said.
“I brought my children to witness the gathering and to evoke a sense of belonging (to the hills) among them,” Reena Pandey, a Ghaziabad-based homemaker from Uttarakhand, told HT from the capital.
Besides keeping a tab on the follow-up of their demands, the collective is looking forward to develop 10 model villages in the hill state with financial and voluntary help of its members.
“Our focus is on the nine hill districts of Uttarakhand. We will try to develop model facilities like health and education so as to curb migration,” Negi said.