Lepchas, an indigenous tribe in Darjeeling, have called for a boycott of the assembly polls. The Hills, which comprises the three seats of Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling, would go to polls in the first phase scheduled for April 18.
At a rally organised by the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association on Thursday, representatives of the community took a unanimous resolution to boycott the polls citing years of neglect and the policies of the Centre and the state government, which runs counter to the interests and welfare of the ethnic community.
The Lepchas are an aboriginal tribe with roots in Sikkim and across the Hills. Even as there is no definitive count of their population, the refrain among the members of the community is that they have long bore the brunt of apathy of the Centre and state government, giving way to a sense of alienation and pushing the community to the verge of extinction.
LS Tamsang, president of the association, said, “It seems we have been voting since independence only to make our lives worse in every respect. Hence, the Lepchas of Darjeeling would boycott the assembly polls this time to protest the indifferent approach and policies of the government.”
Tamsang said that being an indigenous tribe, the Lepchas, in terms of their population ratio, have the highest collective land holding in the district. He said their population across the three hill sub-divisions runs into more than 1 lakh, having an estimated 60000 voters across the district. In Kalimpong sub division alone, the population runs into upwards of 50000, said Tamsang.
Addressing Lepchas, who had arrived from Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling, Tamsang said, “This time we would observe a vote boycott and our call is neither in opposition to any particular community or political party.”