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Gangtok: Amid the ongoing debate for a National Register of Citizens (NRC) update in Tripura and Meghalaya — on the lines of the one currently being undertaken in neighbouring Assam — several ethnic bodies of Sikkim have demanded a similar exercise in the state, along with the introduction of an Inner Line Permit (ILP) system, to contain the influx of illegal migrants.

The organisations have accused the government of not taking adequate measures leading to a phenomenal change in the state’s demography. They also claim that Sikkim has become a soft ground for illegal migrants.

The groups claimed that the menace of influx pose a threat to their indigenous identity. Tashi Lhamu Lepcha, general secretary of Sikkim Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association (SILTA), was quoted as saying by media reports, “The need of the hour is to check the ever-growing and uncontrolled influx. The National Register of Citizens exercise should be carried out in Sikkim as there are already thousands of people with dubious citizenship on record.”

The indigenous bodies speculate about the consequences of illegal immigration on the state’s political system. Currently, of the 32 assembly seats, 37.5% seats are reserved for the Bhutia-Lepcha community, which amounts to 12 seats. However, at the time of Sikkim’s annexation with India, 16 seats were reserved for the indigenous communities, while the rest were reserved for the Sikkimese of Nepali origins.

But since 1980, the 16 reserved seats for the Sikkimese of Nepali origins were revoked; while only two seats were kept for the Scheduled Castes (SC), the reservation for the Bhutia-Lepcha communities got reduced to 12 seats.

Sikkim shares international borders with three nations — Nepal in the west, China in the north and Bhutan in the east. The state shares it southern boundary with West Bengal. The groups allege that unchecked migration has put an extra burden on the land and resources of the state.

However, groups lament that the government has not initiated any plans to introduce NRC and or ILP.

ILP is Ian official travel document issued by the Centre to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period. Currently, ILP is required to travel to the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.

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