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8 Aug 2017

Gurung appeal to tribals


TT, Calcutta, Aug. 7: Bimal Gurung today urged adivasis in the Dooars and Terai to join the statehood agitation and promised that an autonomous body would be created for the community under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution if Gorkhaland was formed.

Tribals, who are in majority in the Dooars and Terai, have largely refrained from backing the call for the separate state.

Gurung's appeal to the adivasis is being seen as a precursor to the hill party's move to spread the agitation to the plains, with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's deadline for the Centre to start talks on Gorkhaland set to end by 6pm tomorrow.

"If the Centre does not respond by calling us for talks on the single agenda of Gorkhaland by 6pm on August 8, we will intensify our agitation. We will lead a democratic agitation and this time, I would like to appeal to all our adivasi people to not only support but also join the movement," Gurung said in Darjeeling today.
The Morcha president said the tribal communities were not aware of the benefits they would get if a new state was created.

"If Gorkhaland is created tomorrow, the adivasi communities will benefit largely. We want to tell them that in the new state, they will have their autonomous council under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution," Gurung said.

He also talked about "protecting" their language and culture and said the new state would work to reopen closed tea estates in the plains. "A number of tea gardens in the Dooars are closed now. The new state will work to reopen the gardens and ensure that there is no death from starvation in the region," said Gurung.

The adivasi population is largely concentrated in the tea gardens. At least five gardens are shut in the plains now.

In 2007, the Morcha had tried to reach out to the tribal community and even proposed that the name of the new state would be Gorkha Adivasi Pradesh. The Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad has always opposed the Morcha's call to bring the Dooars and the Terai under the proposed state, leading to clashes between the Gorkhas and the tribals.

Government officials said Gurung's call to the adivasis was expected.

"That is why the chief minister held a meeting of the Tribal Advisory Council on August 2," the source said.

A political analyst said: "The state wanted to make sure that the tribals did not respond to the Morcha's bid to bring them around and instead, oppose any attempt by the hill party to take the movement to the plains."

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