With population of 1,563, Bengal’s tiniest tribe wants representation : The Tribune India

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5-state Poll 2016

With population of 1,563, Bengal’s tiniest tribe wants representation

ALIPURDUAR: Amid the hubbub of electioneering in West Bengal, the Totos, a tribe said to be numerically the smallest ethnic group in West Bengal, long for the day when one of their own will become a legislator.

With population of 1,563, Bengal’s tiniest tribe wants representation

A poll official distributes voter slips among women in Murshidabad. PTI



Shubhadeep Choudhury

Tribune News Service

Alipurduar, April 13

Amid the hubbub of electioneering in West Bengal, the Totos, a tribe said to be numerically the smallest ethnic group in West Bengal, long for the day when one of their own will become a legislator.

“If the Anglo-Indians can have a nominated member in Parliament, why not the same right is extended to the Totos? We are smaller in number than the Anglo-Indians”, says Dhaniram Toto, an elderly resident of Totopara located near the Indo-Bhutan border in Alipurduar district.

The total population of Totos according to 1951 census was 321 living in 69 houses at Totopara. In 1991 census, the Toto population had increased to 926 who lived in 180 houses. In the 2001 census, their number had increased to 1,184. Right now, their number is estimated to be 1,563.

While the claim that the Totos are numerically the smallest ethnic group in the world can be questioned, they are most certainly the tiniest ethnic group in Bengal. “Two other small ethnic groups — Birhors and Lodhas — are found in Purulia, Bankura and Midnapore districts. But the Totos are numerically the smallest of the primitive tribes found in Bengal”, said Pramod Nath, a researcher, said.

“Only 600 of us are voters. We really do not matter as far as elections are concerned,” Dhaniram Toto, who works in the state government’s Backward Classes Welfare Department, says.

Six hundred votes are just about enough to attract candidates to visit Totopara for canvassing. Totopara falls in the Madarihat constituency, which is slated to go to polls on April 17. The seat is reserved for scheduled tribes. Parties prefer ‘adivasi’ (tribals of Chota Nagpur plateau) or Nepalese-speaking tribal candidates for the seat since these two groups constitute a huge chunk of people in the constituency.

For the 2016 seats, the BJP has put up a Adivasi candidate, the candidate of the Congress-Left Front combine too is an ‘adivasi’ while the TMC candidate is member of a Nepalese-speaking tribe.

“Candidates of all major parties have visited us. But we really do not expect much from them”, says Bhakta Toto, a Gramin Bank employee, who is also the proud father of Sanchita, the only woman honours graduate among the Totos.

Mamata, Modi two sides of same coin: Sonia 

Sujapur/Muraroi (WB):  Launching a frontal attack on TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday accused her of unleashing autocracy in West Bengal and said the CM and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were “two sides of the same coin”. “The people in Bengal are facing tanashahi of the Centre and the Mamata government. Mamata has not kept her promises to the poor, the minorities and the backward. We had believed in her promises and supported the TMC in the 2011," she said at poll meetings. PTI

Phase II: Three candidates have zero assets   

Kolkata: Three candidates trying their luck in the second phase of Bengal Assembly elections on April 17 have declared zero assets while seven others have less than a thousand rupees with them. Two Independents, Benoy Kumar Das and Sandip Roy fighting from Raiganj and Mayureswar seats, respectively, have declared in an affidavit before the Election Commission that they neither have any money in their pocket nor they own any other assets or properties. PTI

Transgenders to man polling booth  

Kolkata:  For the first time, a group of transgenders will be in charge of the polling process at a booth in Kolkata. This is part of an initiative to include all sections of society in polling process and the Election Commission has identified a booth in southern Kolkata, which goes to poll on April 30, where transgenders will be deployed as polling personnel. The name of the booth and constituency where the initiative will be implemented is, however, yet to be disclosed. PTI

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