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Tribal dilemma in Darjeeling

The Sixth Schedule is every party's pet theme in this hill station, reprots Amitava Banerjee.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2006 14:56 IST

The Sixth Schedule is every party's pet theme in this hill station. Along with its promises for development, the GNLF pleads for votes saying the Sixth Schedule, with its bag of benefits, is just round the corner for the Darjeeling Hills.

GNLF leader Subhas Ghising declares that under the Sixth Schedule everyone is a tribal (irrespective of community).

Even the flora and fauna are not spared the schedule tribe rhetoric. Shamans, stone-worship, fairs with local brews and roasted delicacies are all grist for Ghising's Sixth Schedule pitch.

"Sixth Schedule will bring with it development and other benefits. It will definitely materialise in a short while. If the bill is passed in the mon soon session of Parliament, we will have elections for the new council within 6 months," says Deepak Gurung, GNLF Darjeeling branch committee president.

On the other side of the fence, the PDF is trying its best to make the Sixth Schedule a millstone around the GNLF's neck. Campaigning for the PDF, politician, social thinker and writer Dr Harka Ba hadur Chettri calls Ghising an agent of the state and the central government.

"Ghising has become a Bengali Babu and is walking in the footsteps of former chief minister Dr BC Roy, who had devised an ingenious plan to end the rights of the Gorkhas," he alleges.

Dr Chettri says the First State Reorganization Commission (SRC) had decided in 1951 that if the majority of the population (70%+) of any district spoke a language other than the state language, then that too would be declared as a state language.

"In the 1951 Census the Nepali population in the district was projected as 19.9%. This impossible task was craftily achieved by projecting the Nepali population comprising the Bahuns, Chettris, Kamis, Damais and Sarkis. The majority of Nepali communities like the Tamangs, Rais, Gurungs and others just not included in the Nepali community," Dr Chettri says.

After widespread protest, the 1961 Census correctly projected the Nepali population at 80%.

"Ghising is reiterating the same dangerous conspiracy. He knows all the hill communities can never be included in the Scheduled Tribe list. He is therefore dividing the Gorkha community into sub-communities and further into Tribals and non-tribals. Ghising's Sixth Schedule would definitely foment a civil strife between tribals and non-tribals," Dr Chettri alleges.