Foothill tribals protest against separate Gorkhaland

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Siliguri, Oct 17 : Hundreds of people of a tribal community protested in Siliguri against the demand of the Gorkha ethnic community for a separate hill state.

Gorkhas, who are ethnic Nepalis, have been fighting for a separate state of "Gorkhaland" to be carved out of the northern hill districts of West Bengal.

However, the tribals inhabiting the foothills, - the Doars and Terai regions, have protested against the creation of Gorkhaland, claiming that they represent over 60 per cent of the population in the region.

While Doars falls under Jalpaiguri district, Terai comes under Darjeeling district dominated by the ethnic Santhals, Mahtos, Bhils, Mundas, Oraons and Nepalese.

"Our demands are that Terai and Doars should not be included in the proposed Gorkhaland. All the Hindi speaking people in the area want that Hindi should be made the medium of language in schools and universities. We also demand opening of the closed tea gardens in the Terai and Doars region," Rajesh Toppno, Assistant Secretary of Adivasi Bikash Parisad (Tribal Development Council).

At least 1,200 people died in the first Gorkhaland campaign in the 1980s, but protests ended a few years later after Gorkha leaders accepted limited autonomy.

The Gorkha population in West Bengal is around one million out of 80 million people, although the overwhelming majority is concentrated in Darjeeling.

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