Kalimpong, Aug. 10: About 300 Lepchas from different parts of the state — the majority of them from the Darjeeling hills — staged a dharna in Calcutta for the second day today, demanding the setting up of the Lepcha Development Council or Board to preserve and promote the community’s culture and language.
The dharna was held under the aegis of the Lepcha Rights Movement of West Bengal. The protesters took out a rally from Minto Park around 10am and then staged a dharna on Raja Rammohan Avenue.
“We will continue our protest till our demands are met. Tomorrow, we will be staging our dharna at Subodh Mullick Square,” said the movement’s convener Bhupendra Lepcha on the phone from Calcutta. The protest has the support of the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association (ILTA), which has been in the forefront of espousing the community’s cause.
The other demands of the Lepchas include introduction of their language in the formal education system of the state and representation in the Assembly and Parliament. The Lepchas are acknowledged as the original inhabitants of the Darjeeling hills and believed to constitute 20 per cent of the 9 lakh people in the hills.
The movement convener said the council or board that the Lepchas were demanding did not envisage any territorial jurisdiction. “But it would be a system to facilitate the development of the Lepcha community and to promote their language and culture. The demand is not to reflect any animosity or ill feeling towards any other community, but to enhance the scope for the development of the Lepcha community spread across Bengal,” he said.
Notably, the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Forum , which is the political arm of the ILTA, had earlier demanded reservation of seats for the community in the Gorkha Territorial Administration to ensure that they remained an integral part of the political system in their homeland. The forum had said the quota was necessary as ever since Independence, the political, cultural and social issues of the Lepchas had not been addressed at any levels of the administration —local, state or central..Courtesy:TheTelegraph.