Guwahati: Assam cabinet on Wednesday notified the Nepali Graziers and Cultivators’ mentioned in the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation, 1886 as “Gorkha Community” in Tribal Belt and Blocks of Bodoland Territorial Region.
The cabinet also decided to notify it in the Sadiya belt in upper Assam.
This has been a long-pending demand of several Gorkha organisations, including the Assam Gorkha Sammelan and All Assam Gorkha Students’ Union to change the nomenclature of the Nepali-speaking community of Assam from the word ‘Nepali’ to Gorkha.
“Nepali word makes us feel like a citizen of Nepal, and not Indian. Renaming it as Gorkha will make us confident in our representation. The single word changes many things for us,” Raju Upadhyaya, a student from Kokrajhar, told EastMojo.
“There was an identity crisis for Gorkhas in these protected belts as we were mentioned as Nepali Graziers and Cultivators. In many cases, especially in terms of land rights, we had to present documents dating back before the Independence, including the Grazing permit. Now this will ease us,” said Bikram Chetry, a resident of Tangla in Udalguri district.
Various Gorkha civil society organisations have welcomed the cabinet decision and thanked Chief Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Speaking to EastMojo, Assam state Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh Secretary & Spokesperson Nanda Kirati Dewan said, “Change of Nepali nomenclature in Assam to Gorkha for indigenous Gorkhas was a long-pending demand since 2003 along with a demand to create satellite Gorkha Autonomous Council. The BGP welcomes the cabinet decision to notify Nepali Graziers and Cultivators’ as ‘Indigenous Gorkha Community’ in respect to the tribal belt and block of BTR.”
“On behalf of the Gorkhas of Assam and the nation, the Parisangh thanks the Government of Assam for this historic decision. We place it on record that this notification should be extended to other existing tribal belts and blocks being reviewed by the government and also to those which the government is proposing to create in Majuli and Dhakuwakhana,” Dewan added.
“It is historic for Gorkhas who are battling the identity crisis and are being labelled as a foreigner for using Nepali as community nomenclature for ages. Through vide Gazette Notification on Aug 23, 1988, the Government of India had cleared this misconception. However, it exists in several parts of the country. Henceforth through this cabinet decision in Assam, all Nepali nomenclature for indigenous Gorkhas shall be known as Gorkhas,” he said.
The then Tarun Gogoi-led government in Dispur created the Gorkha Development Council in 2013 under the Welfare of the Plain Tribes (WPT) Department, Government of Assam. “The creation of GDC was the first baby step to recognise Nepali/Gorkha Bhasa speaking community as indigenous Gorkhas in Assam. The present Government of Assam under the dynamic leadership of Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma is taking the right decisions on time and giving positive vibes to various indigenous communities of Assam. We look forward to amicably resolve various long pending issues of Gorkhas over time,” he said.
Addressing a press meet on Thursday, Assam Minister Dr Ranoj Pegu said, “Gorkha community residing in BTR area will be given the equal right which was enjoyed by the tribal people. This will apply only to the permanent residents residing before 2003.”
Chapter 10 of the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation, 1886 protects the land rights of the protected tribal classes from immigrants in regions notified as Protected Tribal Belts and Blocks.
As per the regulation of 1886, no land of the protected tribal classes can be bought by a non-tribal non-protected class of people. Only the protected tribal classes living inside the Protected Tribal Belts and Blocks or outside in other regions of Assam could buy land from the members of any protected tribal classes.
However, the non-tribal non-protected people living in the Protected Tribal Belts and Blocks will only be able to buy land only from a non-tribal non-protected class of people, and not from protected tribal classes.
The Nepali Cultivators and Graziers, now notified as Gorkha was initially included in the list of protected classes but were removed later in 1969. However, in 1996, the Assam Government re-included them as a protected tribal class in BTR.