Sikkim: Bhaichung Bhutia calls for sit-in to safeguard Article 371 (F)
Members of the Bihari community in Sikkim addressing the press

Gangtok: Sikkim has been witness to several debates on social media over the past week following a viral video of two Bihari residents protesting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, opposing Article 371 F, the constitutional provision for Sikkim.

The incident is being condemned by Sikkimese people across social media. On Friday, representatives of various Bihari organisations in Sikkim came forward to debunk the claims made by the two individuals.

The two protesters are Bihar residents and spoke about the existence of a uniform civil code in the country, questioning the existence of Article 371 (F). They made references to the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, demanding something similar must follow in Sikkim, calling for the abolishment of Article 371 (F).

One of them claimed that he was married to a Sikkimese girl. He went on to allege how he, along with other Bihari residents, was being mistreated by Sikkimese people under the pretext of the Article. He claimed he was denied job opportunities and could not buy land in the state.

Lower MG Marg Ward Councillor Ashok Prasad along with various Bihari organisations and individuals termed the dharna in Jantar Mantar as ‘drama’. Addressing the media, Prasad stated, “Biharis in Sikkim are unaware about the intent of the protest or who all are involved in the act. These unknown forces are making the Bihari community a scapegoat and trying to disturb the peace in Sikkim. It would be better if we place the portrait of erstwhile Chogyal of Sikkim in government offices, as a mark of respect for the old laws framed by the former king.”

Refuting the allegations made by the persons staging dharna in Delhi as false and baseless, Prasad claimed, “The state government has been supporting the old settlers on every front. The government of Sikkim must initiate a probe against the two staging the protest in Delhi so that truth is brought to light.”

Social media erupted with others echoing the opinion that the special provision of Sikkim guaranteed by Article 371 (F) restricts non-Sikkim subjects or those who do not hold certificates of identification issued by the Sikkimese government from getting government jobs or buying land in the state.

General Secretary of the Sikkim Bihari Jagaran Manch Birendra Prasad stated, “A section of people are trying to defame Bihari Jagaran Manch through their protest in Delhi and via social media. We are protected by Article 371 F. We have no knowledge of those staging dharna in Delhi nor do we have any idea about their whereabouts. They are trying to disturb the communal harmony existing in Sikkim.”

Meanwhile, footballer-turned-politician Bhaichung Bhutia called for individuals and organisations in Sikkim to attend a one-day protest at the District Administrative Centre, Gangtok on September 15.

The dharna has been called to safeguard Article 371 (F) and to send a strong message to the political forces behind the conspiracy to dilute the Article, said Bhutia.

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