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Sikkim: SRP, HSP Demand Removal of ‘Immigrant’ Tag on Sikkimese Nepali Community in Recent SC Verdict

The SC judgement has seen resignations by some leaders, who have called for a 'Sikkim Ekta Rally' in February, led by Bhaichung Bhutia and his Hamro Sikkim Party.

Image Courtesy: EastMoJo

New Delhi: The Supreme Court verdict earlier this month on tax exemption for old settlers and Sikkimese women married to non-locals, has been the talk of the the small hill state. Lately, the 'immigrant' tag on the Sikkimese Nepali community in the court’s judgement has seen resignation by leaders, who have called for a 'Sikkim Ekta Rally' in February, led by former football player Bhaichung Bhutia and his Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP).

According to a report in EastMojo, Bhutia, who is president of HSP, also represents the Bhutia community in Sikkim. HSP’s objectives include restoration of the ‘Nepali seat’ in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly. He has also questioned how the Bhutia Lepcha reservation in the panchayat election was cut short recently.

On Wednesday, he and the Sikkim Republican Party (SRP) president KB Rai condemned the ‘immigrant’ tag upon the Sikkimese Nepali community in the SC verdict.

In a joint press conference, Bhaichung Bhutia said: “Why has the State government not appealed against the immigrant tag on the Sikkimese Nepali community in the apex court’s verdict? The Advocate General of the State government can appeal for the removal of the line. Perhaps the Advocate General only takes a stand after the approval from the Chief Minister. The government has a responsibility to take up the issue and they can appeal. It might be a passing remark that is given; we are not saying to change the verdict but just change and object to the term and tag used. It's a wrong tag being laid upon the Nepali community,” as quoted by EastMojo.

Rai contended that the ‘immigrant’ tag had been mentioned more than once in the Supreme Court verdict, taking an example of a similar case in the past.

“The need is for anthropological research and history to be presented at a national stage on what identity the Sikkimese Nepali hold. Immigrant very simply means not originally from here…original inhabitants are Bhutia and Lepcha and those that came from Nepal, says our history. For some years we may use the privileges and rights of the State but maybe not the future generations,” he was quoted as saying. 

The SRP has for long raised its voice in demand for Nepali seat restoration in the Assembly and has allied with the HSP to pursue the restoration.

Rai said: “This is the reason that HSP and SRP joined hands in a greater fight for Nepali seat and fighting against the immigrant tag. Government must have the political willpower to pursue the Nepali seat restoration. The government cannot go Supreme Court to change this, but make use of anthropology and history to change the immigrant tag and bring out a notification. If it does, this can change the immigrant tag on the Sikkimese Nepali community.”

Bhutia suggested that MPs on a pan-India level can be approached for the restoration of Nepali seats in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly.

“First we must be sure if the Government of India wants to implement Nepali seat reservation. We have to convince them that it existed before. All communities must get their rights. The key to how it is done is with the government. Political reforms and solutions are mentioned in the manifesto but after winning such issues are forgotten. We have to be a family collectively else future generations will face trouble with identity.  When we form the government, we will come up with the formula. Right now, we don’t have the key,” he added.

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