The SDF-helmed State Government of Sikkim and the GJMM-led Gorkha Territorial Administration of Darjeeling have resolved to jointly pursue the demand for tribal status for all Nepali-speaking people of the country. This was announced at a joint press conference addressed by Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling and GTA chief Bimal Gurung in Gangtok today.Although the modalities of how this collaboration will be carried forward are yet to be worked out, the resolution to work together on the demand was arrived at after an hour and a half long meeting between Mr. Chamling and Mr. Gurung at Mintokgang, the official residence of the Sikkim CM, here in Gangtok on 21 August, Friday.
From among the Nepali/ Gorkha constellation of communities, only the Limboos and Tamangs are currently included in the Scheduled Tribes List while demands for several other individual communities from within the group are in various stages of consideration. Interestingly, the demand for tribal status has traditionally been made and processed by individual communities and this, if the two leaders proceed with making the case for the various communities under a single block as Nepali-speaking Indians/ Gorkhas as they announced today, will be the first time that such an effort is being made.
While the SDF Government has already been pursuing the demand for inclusion of all Nepali-speaking communities of Sikkim in the ST list, GJMM had a slightly different demand which did not include some communities. It appears that GJMM has amended its position although Mr. Gurung, in a Facebook post on today’s development continues to mention only the original list mooted by them.
In recognition perhaps of the uncharted territory that the collaboration was venturing into, Mr. Chamling, when asked how they planned to proceed with the demand, said that the way forward will have to be planned in consultation with intellectuals of the community and hopefully also in concert with other political parties of the region.
As for the demand, Mr. Chamling underlined that the community meets the criteria required for tribal status and because it has made tremendous sacrifices and contributions towards nation-building, according tribal status would secure them justice.
Mr. Gurung also commented that Sikkim has a mature leadership which could provide the course to provide socioeconomic and political justice to the Gorkhas of the country by ensuring tribal status for them. He also called for the community to unite as it did during the Bhasa Manyata movement in the late eighties and early nineties.