Hamro Sikkim Party founder Bhaichung Bhutia Credit: File image

Guwahati: Former Indian footballer and Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) founder Bhaichung Bhutia has strongly opposed the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2019 which got the Union cabinet nod earlier this week. The Bill, which will be tabled in Lok Sabha on December 9-10, poses long-term threat to the Sikkimese people and their rights, Bhutia said.

CAB seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by seeking to grant citizenship to undocumented non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India on or before December 31, 2014, if they faced religious persecution in these neighbouring countries.

Bhutia said that the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) government in its manifesto already said that the party does not accept CAB, and his only request to the state government was to speak to the Union ministry of home affairs or the Prime Minister’s Office to exclude Sikkim out of the Bill.

He added that there are already talks that many ILP states and Sixth Schedule areas will be out of the Bill’s purview. “But we want to make sure it’s written in paper,” he added.

Bhutia said that when the CAB was brought earlier, it was clear that it excludes Jammu and Kashmir. So they can exclude Sikkim as it is a special state, and it is important to safeguard the interest of Sikkimese people.

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Expressing concern, the former Indian skipper said, “For a small and sensitive state like Sikkim, we don’t support CAB…In Sikkim we don’t want because Sikkim as already small and we have huge challenges in terms of jobs. Today, Sikkim is the second highest unemployed state in India.”

He added that the state’s 60-70% land is already covered in forest area and bringing in more people from outside is a matter of concern. Also, Bangladesh is a concern as it is only 3 hours drive from Sikkim.

Suggesting that CAB might affect in the long run, Bhutia said that we want to safeguard Sikkimese people, Sikkimese right and that is what we are fighting for.

He opined that “NRC and CAB is mostly concerning Assam and [West] Bengal because these are the two states which have more issues on this. And both the states are close to Sikkim and in the long run we do feel scared. So if they pass the Bill but they exempt Sikkim out, I am more than happy.”

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