Lepchas hail nod for board

Kalimpong, Feb. 6: Around 40 Lepchas gathered at Damber Chowk near here this afternoon and burst fire crackers to express their happiness over the state cabinet's decision to set up the Mayel Lyang Lepcha Development Board.

Parties opposed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha have welcomed the proposal of setting up the board but have expressed reservation over the name of the body.

Today, the Lepchas shouted slogans praising chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

"We are happy with the decision of chief minister Mamata Banerjee to set up the board. We have no political interest. The board is only meant to ensure the socio-economic development of our backward community," said N.T. Lepcha, the co-ordinator of the Lepcha Rights Movement that has spearheaded the agitation for the formation of the board.

Yesterday, the state cabinet cleared the proposal of setting up the board under the backward classes welfare department to ensure the overall development of the community and preserve their language and culture.

Mayel Lyang Lepcha loosely means land of the Lepchas.

The Gorkhaland Task Force, a four-party anti-Morcha group comprising the ABGL, CPRM, Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh and the Gorkha Navnirman Rashtriya Morcha, welcomed the decision to form the Lepcha board but said it had problems with its name. "We have reservation about the name Mayel Lyang," said Sukman Moktan, GTF chairman.

ABGL secretary Pratap Khati said since the proposed board was meant to ensure the development of the Lepchas as a community, it would have been appropriate to name it just Lepcha Development Board. "I do believe this can be sorted out. We must sit with the Lepcha leaders and correct this," he said.

The Lepchas are regarded as the original inhabitants of the hills and make up about 20 per cent of the population. The community never had any territorial demand.


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