Rai community celebrates new year

Intensifies struggle for tribal status
Report by: 
PRADIP LOHAGUN
KALIMPONG
16 Jan 2014

Although the Rai (Khambu) community has been demanding scheduled tribe status sine long, nothing positive has yet come up to satisfy its members. Reports say the community will now intensify its struggle after the formation of the Lepcha board and similar demands by other communities. The Kirat Khambu Rai Sanskritik Sansthan today organised a massive rally and function at the Mela Ground in Kalimpong and disclosed its future strategy in its demand for ST status. The function, held on the occasion of the Kirati New Year (Yeldong) Yalambar Samvat 5074, was attended by thousands of members.

The KKRSS announced the demand for ST status will be pursued under the Khambu Rai Rights Movement (KRRM) banner. Disclosing future programmes, KRRM spokesperson Sandip Kulung said beginning January 18, the organisation will launch a relay hunger strike at the Thanadara premises. Besides, it will seek to create pressure on the state government by holding demonstrations and distributing leaflets in Delhi and Kolkata.

 “We are a tribal people. Our population in Darjeeling exceeds 4 lakh members. We have been deprived for many years but now will fight for our rights in unison” asserted Kulung.

Besides the demand for ST status the KRRM has also taken up issues such as introduction of the Rai language in government schools in the hills and the establishment of Rai Bhawans in all the three sub-divisions of Darjeeling including in Kolkata. Community leaders have announced the struggle will be led phase-wise and they would even go for an indefinite hunger strike if need be. Kulung also threatened to boycott the forthcoming LS polls if the government fails to give any assurance on granting of ST status to the community even as he sought support from political parties over the matter. He said while the Subba community was accorded ST status, the Rais were left aside despite the two communities being culturally akin to one another.

Rights movement convener Bimesh Rai said the government’s policy to enlist the Rais as Hindus is faulty and erroneous. KKRSS president Arun Prakash Rai appealed to community members to remain conscious towards their tradition and culture and to preserve and develop them. He noted there were a large number of people who spoke the Rai language as per the 1911 census, but the count has fallen significantly now.

The rally witnessed the presence of a large gathering of community members from Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Mirki, Kurseong and the Dooars.

CAPTION:

EE: Rai community leaders share the dais during the Yeldong function.

FF: At the Yeldong function in Kalimpong.

Photo by: 
EOI PIKS