The heads of six development boards formed by the Mamata Banerjee government were present at the first-of-its-kind meeting at the Gorkha Dukha Niwarak Sammelan Hall today. The meeting was addressed by the chairmen of Tamang, Sherpa, Bhutia, Mangar, Limbu and Rai development boards.
The chairman of the Lepcha development board, however, was absent from the meeting "as the representatives of the community were busy with preparations for their own meeting".
Sanjay Moktan, the chairman of the Tamang Development and Cultural Board, said: "The state government has helped us in our development and we have, therefore, decided to help that political party."
Asked if that political party was the Trinamul Congress, Moktan said: "Obviously. If the leadership of that party is supporting us, we, too, need to back them. However, we cannot tell all our community members to vote for a particular party. We believe that it is our responsibility to support that party which is helping us."
|The chairmen of the 7 hill development boards at the meeting.Picture by Suman Tamang|
Observers, however, believe every member of a particular community is not expected to follow the chairman's line of thought. "Moreover, there are also rival organisations within the communities which are not too enthused about the development boards," said an observer.
Moktan said the meeting had also been called to end the "oppression" being perpetuated by a political party. "The meeting has also been called to seek freedom from the oppression that is being perpetuated by a political party. We believe the party is not allowing us to develop our language and culture."
Although Moktan did not take the name of the political party, it was clear that he was referring to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
Asked about the oppression, Moktan said: "When a member of the Tamang community was killed in broad daylight here, we could not even protest."
The killing was in reference to the murder of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League leader, Madan Tamang, in May, 2010.
Palden Bhutia, the chairman of the Bhutia Development Board, said: "All we want to say is that we need to feed the cow that provides milk to us."
Bhutia said the meeting had been organised not by the development boards but by organisations representing the six communities.
Nima Wangdi Sherpa, the chairman of the West Bengal Sherpa Development Board, said: "Apart from the chairmen of the six development boards, representatives of the Darjeeling Indigenous Schedule Caste Welfare Association and the Bhujel community were also present. The two communities are demanding development boards and we would extend support to them."
With regard to the absence of the chairman of the Lepcha development board, Sherpa said: "As the representatives of the community were busy with preparations for their own meeting, they could not attend today's meeting."