The Lepchas of West Bengal, who have been sitting in dharna and holding rallies since August 11, decided to withdraw their ongoing agitation from Wednesday as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee assured that the state government would set up a development board for the Lepchas in Darjeeling.
The Lepchas - the indigenous tribals of the Darjeeling and surrounding Hills - have been demanding the setting up of the Lepcha Development Council (LDC) or Board for the protection of language, culture, tradition along with economic development of the community.
On September 5, a 22-member Lepcha delegation met the chief minister at her residence in Kolkata. "She assured us that the LDC would soon be constituted. She will look into the matter during her visit to the Darjeeling Hills soon after Durga Puja. Adhering full faith in her assurance, we have decided to lift our ongoing agitation," stated NT Lepcha, chief coordinator, Lepcha Rights Movement (LRM).
They are also demanding adequate representation in the State Assembly and Parliament along with the incorporation of Lepcha language in the formal education system.
Mamata Banerjee on September 2 had announced in the assembly that a Lepcha Development Council would be constituted for the development of the community.
The Lepchas are optimistic that the other two demands (representation in the Assembly and Parliament along with incorporation of Lepcha language in schools) will also be addressed.
The indefinite dharna in front of the SDO office in Kalimpong was also lifted on Monday.
The Lepcha population is around one and a half lakhs in the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling district (out of an approximate 8 lakh population).
The Lepchas are concentrated in Kalimpong sub division with a land holding of 30%.