GJM rebuffed, Mamata sets up Lepcha council


In a move that could further worsen the relations between Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) and Trinamool Congress government, the state Cabinet on Tuesday went ahead with the proposal of Backward Class Welfare Department and gave nod to setting up of a separate council for Lepchas in the Hills.

The decision comes in the wake of GJM's threat to quit Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and launch a fresh movement demanding separate statehood of Gorkhaland. The state government's latest move, political observers say, will create more trouble in Darjeeling as the GJM president Bimal Gurung had publicly said that any move to set up a separate council for Lepchas will be construed as an attempt by the government to divide the people of the Hills.

During her tour of Darjeeling district last week, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had met a delegation of Lepcha community and assured them that a separate council will be set up for their "development". The GJM reacted strongly to the proposal and accused the Chief Minister of adopting "divide and rule" tactic in the Hills. The GJM said there was no mention of any separate council for Lepchas in the GTA agreement signed between the Centres, state and GJM. But a defiant Chief Minister chose to ignore the protests of the GJM and went ahead with the setting up of a separate council for the Lepchas.

The council will be named Mayel Liang Lepcha Development Board and will be registered under Societies Registration Act. It's headquarter will be set up at Kalimpong sub-division of Darjeeling district. "The objective of the council will be to ensure overall development of the community and development of the culture, language of Lepcha community," said the government note. Economic development of the Lepchas through farming, animal husbandry and tourism will be the focus areas of the council, it said and added that the new council will construct houses for people of the community and arrange proper education of the children.

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