Sikkim: HSP-SRP demand removal of 'immigrant' tag on Nepalis in recent SC verdict
HSP President Bhaichung Bhutia (R)

Gangtok: The recent Supreme Court verdict earlier this month on tax exemption for old settlers and women married outside of the state remains in news.

The mention of the ‘immigrant’ tag on the Sikkimese Nepali community in the SC verdict has led to a call for a rally termed ‘Sikkim Ekta Rally’ by Bhaichung Bhutia and his Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) in February.

Bhutia, who serves as the President of HSP, also represents the Bhutia community in Sikkim. HSP’s agendas include restoration of the ‘Nepali seat’ in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly’. He also argued how the Bhutia Lepcha reservation in the Panchayat election was cut short recently.

On Wednesday, he and Sikkim Republican Party President KB Rai condemned the ‘immigrant’ tag upon the Sikkimese Nepali community in the SC verdict. In a joint press conference, Bhaichung questioned, “Why has the State government not appealed against the immigrant tag on the Sikkimese Nepali community in the SC 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. Even if the verdict is passed, they can appeal. It might be a passing remark that is given, we are not saying 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.”

Sikkim Republican Party President KB Rai contended that the ‘immigrant’ tag has been mentioned more than once in the Supreme Court verdict, taking an example of a similar case in the past. He shared, “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.”

Rai and SRP have, for long, raised their voices to demand a Nepali seat restoration and he sorted the partnership with Bhaichung’s HSP to pursue the restoration. KB Rai said, “This is why HSP and SRP joined hands: for the Nepali seat and against the immigrant tag. Government must have the political willpower to pursue the Nepali dear restoration. The government cannot go to the Supreme Court to change this, but use anthropology and history to remove the immigrant tag and bring out a notification.”

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