Lepchas to boycott polls in three seats in Bengal

The common refrain among these tribal hill people who have roots in Sikkim, Bhutan and elsewhere in the hills, is that they had long borne the brunt of apathy and neglect of both the Centre and the state authorities that had given rise to a feeling of alienation, pushing the community to the verge of a daily struggle to escape extinction.

“Polls come and polls go; promises galore spring up during the polls and dry up after the elections. Our patience has been stretched to the maximum limit. We cannot resort to a violent path like the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha. It’s time to register our protest,” Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association president L S Tamsang said on Sunday.

Lepchas, whose population figure is not  known precisely, have the highest collective land holding in Darjeeling district. A rough estimate put their population across the three hill subdivisions at over one lakh, with Kalimpong sub-division alone accounting for over 50,000.

With a strong bond uniting the community in the region, the boycott, if implemented in letter and spirit, could upset some calculations.

“Our vote boycott call is not in opposition to any particular community or political party,” Tamsang stated.

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