In February the State Assembly of Sikkim, in northern India, granted Scheduled Tribe status to the Lepchas. The story of their need for that special status was reviewed here on March 10th. Now the Lepchas are seeking similar protection and benefits in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal state, to the south of Sikkim, where some of them also live. However, since their attempts have been unsuccessful at the state level, they turned last week to lobbying the national government for their rights.
A delegation representing the Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association (ILTA) met with senior government officials in New Delhi, including Sonia Gandhi. One of their requests is that the ancient Lepcha language be included in the curriculums of schools and colleges in Darjeeling, as it is in Sikkim. (The authoritative blog “Languagehat” recently had a post, and a complex comment string, about the language of the Lepchas.) The ILTA also seeks “Primitive Tribe” status for their people in West Bengal state. If they gain that classification, they will apparently be eligible for additional development funds.