Darjeeling, July 24: The Rai community in the hills has decided to enlist themselves as “Kirantis” in the ongoing socio-economic and caste census to get Scheduled Tribe status like the Tamangs and the Limbus.
M.S. Rai, the general secretary of the Kiranti Khambu (Rai) Sanskritik Sansthan, the apex body of the community, said: “Our community has a 5,000-year-old history and the Kiranti-Khambu-Rai community has its own culture and tradition. Because of the ignorance regarding our community, our members have been enlisting themselves as Hindus in various enumerations, which is not correct. We have our own language, script, culture and religion, which is Kiranti. We appeal to all our members to enlist themselves as Kirantis during the ongoing socio-economic and caste census.”
Kiranti is the surname of one of the major sub-communities of Gorkhas.
The group claims to be primarily nature worshippers.
The move to enlist the community as Kirantis is largely believed to be an effort to get ST status.
The Rai community is following in the footsteps of the Tamangs of the Gorkha community, the majority of whom had denounced Hinduism and started following Buddhist customs and traditions during their struggle for ST status.
The Tamangs and the Limbus, both from the Gorkha community were given the ST status in 2000.
According to M.S. Rai, the community makes up about 25 per cent of the hill population and the group is working with 10 other Gorkha communities like the Khas, Newar, Mukhia, Dewan, Gurung, Mangar, Jogi, Thami and Bhujels to enlist themselves as STs.
“We have our own customs like udhauli, ubhauli puja, chula puja and pitri puja. Our customs are performed by bijua, mangpa or the elders of the family. We only worship nature and our family elders,” said M.S. Rai.
The ST status is accorded by the National Commission for Schedule Tribes.