I was pleased to release the book titled ‘Sikkim Summit for Tribal Status 2018: A Post Conference Document’ today at a function held at Manan Kendra. This book dedicated to the people of Sikkim will certainly serve as an important document for future reference on the subject. The document will be in addition to the Burman Commission Report and the Ethnographic Report already published by the State Government on the same subject.
I spoke about the pro-people and inclusive policies of the Government to provide equal socio-economic and political rights to all the ethnic communities of the State. Since the formation of our Government in 1994, we have presented the demand for grant of Tribal status to the 11 left out communities several times at various platforms. In fact, as soon as our first Government was formed, I met the then Prime Minister, Shri PV Narsimha Rao and among other demands placed before him, there was the demand for grant of Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the 13 left out communities, which also included the Limboo and Tamang (LT) communities then. Since then, I have met several Prime Ministers with the same demand, the only difference being the case of 11 communities now, with the LT communities being recognized as STs in 2002. In addition, there have been five resolutions passed in the State Legislative Assembly on the same matter. You can very well see that the State Government has left no stone unturned in its endeavour to secure this long-pending demand. Members of these communities should have faith in the system and put up a united front to see the fulfillment of their hopes and aspirations. I assured them of assistance and co-operation from the State Government as also my personal support. They are free to approach my Office for any kind of help any time.
I recounted the moment when I had met the then Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee just before the grant of ST status to the LT communities. Being ever supportive of the causes of Sikkim, the late Prime Minister had asked me whether the State Government wanted ST status for all the 13 communities together or initially only for LTs, who had fulfilled all the required criteria at that time. I had no hesitation in saying that we go ahead with the case of two communities and not delay their rightful dues.
I stated that our people must be mindful of the fact that we have ensured equal rights and privileges to all the communities of the State. We have not left any community from the ambit of the reservation system. Considering that the communities of Chettri, Bahun and Newar were deprived of this right, the State Government went out of its way to grant them OBC (State List), with the people of these communities enjoying all rights as OBCs within the State of Sikkim.
I once again expressed my concern on the treatment that is meted to the Nepalis in our Country. We are still treated as foreigners and looked down upon, not recognizing the contributions of the Gorkhas in Indian history including the Independence Movement. Contributions of great Nepalis like Durga Malla are often forgotten. The onus lies on the people from the Nepali community to highlight such achievements and prove beyond point that Nepalis have also contributed in Nation-building and deserve to be treated with same respect as our other fellow Indians.
I informed the gathering that the State Government had conferred the ‘LD Kazi Award for Democratic Movement’ on the occasion of State day, 2018 to Late Vandey Pokhrel, an eminent freedom fighter from Sikkim in recognition of his contribution in the freedom struggle. Further, I announced for the construction of a statue as a tribute to the freedom fighter. Besides, a road will also be named after him. Similarly, we have already named Namchi- Asangthang road after Late Sabitri Lepcha, a freedom fighter from Sikkim, who is reported to have worked in close association with Gandhiji.
In conclusion, I stated that the grant of Tribal status to the remaining 11 left out communities, is purely a Central subject. The people belonging to these communities must come together unitedly and present a strong case, based on the unique history of Sikkim as also their own tradition and customs. Just as we placed our case on IT exemption based on our unique identity of being Indian Sikkimese possessing SSC/CoI, this too should be pleaded on similar lines with the Central Government. I exhorted the representatives to move ahead with positivity and make their case strong enough with ample justifications for the Union Government to consider.