In what is being seen as putting the demand for a separate Gorkhaland on the backburner,the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has now raised the demand for hill tribe status for the Gorkhas in Darjeeling hills - an issue that the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) had raised years ago.
The Subhas Ghising-led GNLF had sought the tribal status for all the people living in the hills under the Sixth Schedule.
Political observers believe that relaunching the movement seeking the tribal status for Gorkhas,excluding the scheduled castes,is a means for the GJM to gain at least some of the ground it lost as the state government launched a massive crackdown on its indefinite movement for separate state.
The GJM raised its demand during the tripartite meeting with state and central governments on Thursday. Significantly,there are 14 ethnic groups among Gorkhas.
Of the 14 groups,four have already been awarded the status of hill tribe and process has been started to grant it to another six. We want the government to grant the tribal status to the remaining groups too. It has been a long standing demand of the people living in the Hills, said GJM MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri.
He said,the Cultural Research Institute under the central government studies a particular group before it can be awarded hill tribe status.
Chhetri,however,added that the demand to include all the groups under Sixth Schedule,as was raised by the GLF,was completely different. Ghising wanted to include the SCs also. But why should they be included under the Sixth Schedule when they are already awarded the Schedule Cast status? Moreover,we have not dropped the demand for the Gorkhaland,unlike Ghising, he added. The Sixth Schedule Bill is now pending in the Parliament.
The GNLF leaders,however,claimed that GJM is now devoid of agenda is trying to steal the issues they had raised. M G Subba,GNLF president of Darjeeling branch committee,said,The Morcha has nothing to tell people. So now they are stealing our ideas and our issues. The Sixth Schedule Bill is in Parliament now. So it is meaningless for Morcha to speak our words and raise those demands,which we raised long ago.