The Khambu Rights Movement (KRM) was formed on January 16, 2013, and it operated under the Kirati Khambu Rai Sanskriti Sansthan (KKRSS) to demand a Scheduled Tribe status for the Rais. But the two groups started falling apart, particularly after the KRM went whole hog on the development board issue.
Rais and Khambus are synonyms for a single community.
"A board for the Khambus had been announced (by chief minister Mamata Banerjee on January 22) in Darjeeling. When we went to Calcutta earlier this month to complete certain formalities related to the formation of the board, some opportunists associated with KKRSS in Darjeeling also went there and claimed that they would form the board," said KRM spokeman Manoj Rai.
|Khambu Rights Movement which was earlier demanding for Tribal Status|
All 14 KRM members participating in the hunger strike today are from Kalimpong subdivision. Sources said more members from other parts of the hills were expected to join them soon.
Binesh Rai, the KRM coordinator, alleged that the KKRSS was never in favour of a Rai development board but at a time the state government was on the verge of setting it up, some KKRSS members were trying to lay claim to it.
"We were shocked to learn that people, who in the past were against the formation of a board, went to Calcutta and demanded that they be allowed to form one. We are totally against these people. We don't want any of them in the board. We may agree to take few members of the KKRSS, who have not spoken against the board, in the general body but none in the executive body of the board," he said.
The KKRSS president, Tara Kumar Rai, however, claimed that they had already formed a board with a six-member executive body, including the chairman and vice-chairman, and 25 general body members. "The registration has also been completed. We had submitted our list (to the state government) about 10 days back. None of the office-bearers of the KKRSS are in the executive body and general body of the board. The chairman will be N.S. Rai," he said adding that he did not want to comment on KRM's allegation.
The KRM coordinator, Binesh Rai, rubbished the KKRSS claim. "I am cent per cent certain that the board has not been formed yet. They don't know what they are saying," he said.