Nature worship in quest for tribal status

DARJEELING
26 Aug 2018

On the occasion of Guru Purnima, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) on Sunday organized the “Banbo Festival” in Chowrasta in Darjeeling town and also felicitated the “shaman” community. The festival was the brainchild of former GNLF leader Subash Ghisingh which he introduced in 2003. This was just before he raised the demand for including the Hills under the sixth schedule ambit, a year later.
It is believed that Ghisingh wanted to make a case and show that the hills people were worshippers of nature thereby making it easier for converting the community as tribals.
Every year the GNLF organizes the programme centrally in Chowrasta, the popular hills promenade on this day, to mark the occasion. “Dhami” and “Jhakris” (shamans) both male and females in their traditional attire with drums and cymbals, start from their respective place of residence to gather at a marked out spot in the town before converging in Chowrasta for the programme
However, after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) came to power in the hills, the GNLF for several years did not organize the programme. GJM had managed to wrest power from the GNLF, after a Bill for implementing sixth schedule in the hills that was placed in the parliament by the UPA government was put in the back burner with help
from the BJP.
This year the rally of “shamans” started from the railway station and after making their way around the town reached Chowrasta, amid chanting and singing. GNLF president Mann Ghising felicitated the participating “shamans” with shawls and flowers.
“My father started this festival. He wanted to show our trait to the outside world and the importance to preserve our culture and traditions. We are following his footsteps,” he said.
Senior party leader Y. Lama said the traditions of the hills were very different from that of the plains and asked people to help safeguard this culture. “We are distinctive and different from other communities. We worship mother nature in all her forms,” he said. (EOIC)