Writes Vivek Chhetri
Darjeeling, Oct. 18: A youth association of the Rai community has opposed the All India Kirati Khambu Rai Association’s decision to not accept a development board.
The general secretary of the Khambu Rights Movement, Sandip Kulung, today said: “We condemn the decision of not accepting a development board for the community. We have raised the demand after consulting our members from the grassroots level and we are leading the movement.”
The All India Kirati Khambu Rai Association had recently said that it would not accept any board because it could create rifts among the Rais and the main demand of the community is a Scheduled Tribe status. The Rais are now enlisted in the OBC category.
Association president Sachin Rai Dumi had said: “We fear division within the Rai community as the board will not be able to build houses for 3 lakh Rai families in the BPL category. Some Rai members will receive benefits, while the others will not.” Other leaders had said it would dilute their main demand of a ST status.
The total hill population is about 15 lakh and around 5 lakh Rais live in the hills. The community has three associations, Khambu Rights Movement, All India Kirati Khambu Rai Association and Kirati Khambu Rai Sanskriti Sansthan, which hasn’t yet made its stand clear. The recent development, however, seems to have created a rift in the community.
Kulung said: “We do not believe that the board will dilute our Scheduled Tribe demand and we have been organising events in Delhi demanding ST status. There were no problems when the Lepchas, Tamangs, Sherpas, Bhutias and Mangars accepted the boards. Why will there be disunity in the hills only because the Rai community will accept a board?
Recently, Mamata Banerjee had declared a board for the Mangars and said she would look into the demands of the Rai and Limbu communities.