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GJM demand of declaring May 14 as state holiday on Buddha Jayanti

Darjeeling : The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has placed a demand of declaring May 14, Buddha Jayanti, as a state holiday, even as the ongoing Lok Sabha election has come as a breather to the growing demand for a development council from various communities of the hills. Taking up the demand today ahead of the Buddhist festival on Wednesday, GJM assistant secretary Binay Tamang said, “The Buddhists are a religious minority community. Community members are not only confined in the Darjeeling hills, but live and work all over Bengal. Hence, our demand that Buddha Jayanti be declared a state holiday by the state government.” However, Buddha Jayanti has long been declared a holiday by the hill council, where employees belonging to the community are given sectional holiday by the district administration office. The All India Tamang Buddhist Association (AITBA) has also welcomed the GJM’s initiative saying it has also placed the same demand before the state government. “We welcome the move by the GJM to declare Budhha Jayanti as a state holiday on May 14. We too have been demanding this since 2007. 

We also want Sonam Loshar to be declared a state holiday,” said AITBA general secretary MS Bomzon. The association also wants all political parties of the hills to raise this demand. “We have nothing against any community, and all we want is we should also get some relaxation in the form of a holiday during our festivals. Buddha Jayanti is our biggest festival and it is only proper that all members of the community get to celebrate it,” said Bomzon. He is also a member of the All Buddhist Minority Welfare Association (ABMWA), which has about 10 different Buddhist communities as members and they include the Tamangs, Bhutias, Sherpas and Yolmos, among others. The general secretary maintained the organisation has also been demanding Buddha Jayanti to be declared a state holiday. “Another problem we face is that many of our community members working in the town areas do get sectional holiday on Buddha Jayanti, but those employed in the tea gardens and cinchona plantations are left out.

We feel if a state holiday is declared, those working in these two sectors will also be able to celebrate the festival,” reasoned Bomzon. According to Bomzon, the Buddhist population in West Bengal is about 5.5 lakh of which 3 lakh live in Darjeeling district while a few thousand in the neighboring district of Jalpaiguri. It may be recalled that demands for separate development councils by various communities in the hills have mushroomed up. This development sprung up ever since Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee formed the Lepcha Development Board and the Tamang Cultural Development Board recently. The process to convert 10 hill communities into scheduled tribes has also been started by both the state government and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, a demand which was taken up by BJP candidate SS Ahluwalia, who received the GJM’s backing.


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