Lepchas back Sixth Schedule demand

Statesman News Service
KALIMPONG, April 21. — The ethnic tribe of the hills has strongly supported the idea of giving the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling hills.
First to be recognised as tribals during the 1950s, the Lepchas seem to have taken up the Sixth Schedule very seriously.
“We are a socio-economically and politically backward tribe. Therefore, the need for the status which is sure to help us in a wide variety of areas,” Mr LS Tamsang, general secretary of the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association, said.
For years now the association has appealed for the recognition of their language and the primitive tribal group. Lamenting that the tribe has been suffering, especially in comparison to the state of Sikkim, Mr Tamsang said that neither the state nor the Centre have done anything for the welfare of the Lepchas.
“This has just been an instance of discrimination,” said Mr Tamsang adding, “our tribe folks are natives of places where there are no roads, electricity and other essential needs”.
Incidentally in Sikkim, the language was recognised in 1975, the year of its merger with the India. They were also declared a primitive tribal group when the Sikkim Assembly passed a resolution on 26 February, 2005.
Accordingly, the association has also decided to convene a meeting regarding their status in the second week of May. Lepchas from all over the district will be taking part in the meeting.
“We will then decide about the course of action in regard to our demand,” Mr Tamsang said.
The Lepchas — among other three tribes, the Limboo, Tamang and Bhutias — comprise a major tribal population in the district. At present, there are 75 groups listed as primitive tribes in the country.
Lepchas who are also the original inhabitants of Darjeeling and Sikkim were granted the Scheduled Tribe status in 1950.
“This is certainly the need of the hour for the overall benefit and development in the hills,” adviser to Yakphoong Song Choomo (Limbo Community Association), Mr CB Subba, said. The Limbos, along with the Tamangs, were granted tribal status in 2002.

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