Bimal hangs on to ST hope, Binay disagrees

Thu, Jan 10, 2019

Our Correspondent

DARJEELING: The Bimal Gurung faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) today iterated that the BJP-led government at the Centre was sincere about the demand for granting tribal status to 11 Gorkha communities, and released a video clip of Union Tribal Affairs minister Jual Oram giving assurances in this regard to back its claim.
The video shows Oram telling one B. P. Bajghai and Darjeeling MP and Union minister S. S. Ahluwalia that a Bill on granting ST status to the 11 communities is likely to be tabled in the budget session of Parliament. “We will be granting tribal status to the 11 different communities in the coming days. The process is already on…The Bill is likely to be placed in the budget session, and passed,” he is heard saying.
Oram said the delay was caused because the government was yet to get the report of the committee formed by his ministry on the repercussion of granting tribal status in places other than Sikkim and Darjeeling where the Gorkhas live in sizable numbers. “We already have the documents of Sikkim and West Bengal, but we do not have the documents of the other places (Assam, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh) and the impact it is likely to cause. This is causing the delay,” he said.
Gurung, who has been in hiding for over one year now, said in a statement accompanying the clip that his party was initially disappointed that the Bill was not tabled in the on-going winter session as promised to its team in October, but after watching Oram’s conversation, it was convinced of the Centre’s sincerity. “After seeing the video of the conversation, we feel that our hope is still alive and strong. The BJP is still sincere towards our demand,” he said.
The rival faction of the Bimal camp led by Binay Tamang, however, insisted that the BJP government was not serious about the demand. “While the Union cabinet has given its approval to grant ST status to other communities, it has formed a new committee without intimating us to examine the demand of the Gorkhas. For consolation sake, a team has been sent to Sikkim and Darjeeling,” he said.
A three-member committee formed set up by the Union Tribal Affairs ministry and headed by joint secretary Meera Ranjan Tshering is currently visiting Sikkim and interacting with representatives of the 11 communities in the State seeking tribal status. The panel is also likely to meet delegations from Darjeeling tomorrow.
Tamang said if the Centre was serious about the demand, it should ask the committee to submit its report within two weeks and place the Bill in the budget session of Parliament.
Tamang also said that the Gorkhas have lost faith in the BJP, and it was time to teach the party a lesson. “The Gorkhas should now take a pledge to bring a new government at the Centre, which is going to look into the pending demands of the Gorkhas,” he added.

Area: 7096 Sq Km
Altitude: 5,840 ft
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Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
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