Home Minister announces welfare projects for Koch-Rajbongshi community

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on February 11, 2021

Amit Shah being greeted by Koch-Rajbongshi leader Ananta Rai ‘Maharaj’

Promises roadmap for development of North Bengal regions at Cooch Behar rally

With an eye on the upcoming polls in Assam and West Bengal, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, on Thursday, announced a host of welfare initiatives for the Koch-Rajbongshi community primarily inhabiting the northern regions of Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya. Welfare projects worth at least ₹750 crore were announced, while more are expected in the coming days.

The community is said to wield considerable influence in seats across north Bengal districts, an area that has seen a saffron surge in recent times, pushing back the Trinamool Congress. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too has been going all out to woo the Rajbongshis, Gorkhas and other hill tribes in the region as she seeks to regain lost ground in these areas.

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As per the 2001 Census, the Rajbongshi language is spoken by nearly one crore people across North Bengal regions (like Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Malda and Murshidabad), apart from the neighbouring States of Assam and Bihar.

Amongst the welfare schemes, Shah announced the setting up of a Rajbongshi Cultural Institute at a cost of ₹500 crore, a memorial in the name of Panchanan Verma (a reformist Rajbongshi leader) at an estimated ₹250 crore and developing important historical destinations and temples in the region as a tourist circuit, besides jobs, among others.

He promised a “more clear roadmap” for “development of North Bengal regions, the Koch-Rajbongshis, Gorkhas and other hill tribes” in the election manifesto of the BJP.

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Calls upon Rajbongshi leader

The major announcements Shah made at his Cooch Behar rally include setting up of the “Narayani Sena” battalion in the para-military forces. The Narayani Sena were the armed troops of the erstwhile princely state of Cooch Behar. This had been an emotive issue for the Rajbongshi community which had time and again demanded that there be a ‘Narayani Sena’ regiment in the India Army. BJP MPs like SS Ahluwalia and Nishit Pramanik had written to the Union Government over these demands.

Ananta Rai ‘Maharaj’, self-proclaimed king of the Cooch Behar and descendent of the royal Koch-Rajbongshi family, had also been raising the demand. Rai is said to have considerable influence over the community. Incidentally, the Union Home Minister had, earlier in the day, met the Koch-Rajbongshi leader at his residence in Assam.

“This is the land of the brave. North Bengal will be developed like a flagship. Brave Rajbongshis will be given their due. A clear road-map will be laid out in the election manifesto,” Shah said during the rally.

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Published on February 11, 2021
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