Darjeeling MP and senior BJP leader S S Ahluwalia has written to the Union tribal affairs department, suggesting that a correspondence begin with states that have a “significant Gorkha population”, to set up a committee that would look into the demand for granting ST status to 11 Gorkha communities ahead of the winter session in Parliament.
The letter, addressed to Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram and dated October 13, was released by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in Darjeeling on Friday. It said: “I am of the opinion that Committee … may be directed to correspond with to all respective State Governments, where a significant Gorkha population resides, to submit their suggestion/recommendations … by 31.10.2016 so that the same may be considered/finalised in the meeting of the Committee before start of forthcoming Winter Session of the Parliament, 2016.”
The accordance of ST status to the Bhujel, Gurung, Mangar, Newar, Jogi, Khas, Rai, Sunwar, Thami, Yakha (Dewan) and Dhimal communities has long been a demand of the GJM and all other hill-based political parties. In April this year, a committee had been formed to look into the demand, but has not met even once till date.
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The move comes at a time when the TMC is attempting to capture Darjeeling. In the 2016 Assembly election, the TMC emerged as the second largest party in the hills in terms of votes, and even though the GJM won all the seats, its vote margin reduced drastically. Moreover, in the past few months, Darjeeling has witnessed a gradual weakening of the GJM with a number of high-profile leaders joining TMC. Cornered, Bimal Gurung has relaunched the Gorkhaland agitation while filing a petition in the Supreme Court against the state government for not handing over administrative power to the GTA. In this, senior TMC leaders have seen the involvement of Ahluwalia and BJP.