Gangtok: Sikkim to witness protest rallies on January 30 and 31 against the Supreme Court recent verdict on January 13 mentioning the Sikkimese Nepali community as ‘immigrants’ and ‘foreigners’.
The rally on January 30 will be carried out by the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha from Gangtok’s bypass road to Gangtok District Administration in Sichey. Another rally will be carried out by the Joint Action Committee, led by different political and organisational representatives, on January 31 across the State.
Addressing the media, the Joint Action Committee condemned the SC verdict tagging the Sikkimese Nepali community as ‘foreigners’ and ‘immigrants’. TN Dhakal of the SKM party, who represented as the president of JAC, said, “We are not here as Bhutia Lepcha or Nepali but collectively as original inhabitants of Sikkim.”
“The apex court not considering the writ petition demanding the removal of the ‘immigrant’ tag on Sikkimese Nepali and overlooking the same in the petition filed for IT exemption for old settlers is utterly wrong. SC cannot afford to make such a mistake. We will not leave the issue until we are removed from the foreigners’ tag,” he said.
Exhibiting an old Gazette of erstwhile Sikkim kingdom on the population census dating back to 1891, TN Dhakal said, “The census doesn’t even feature or mention about old settlers. We can conclude that the old settlers didn’t even exist until 1891 as per the Gazette. They have no right to declare us as foreigners.”
Raju Giri, a representative of the Bharatiya Janata Party, asserted the removal of old settlers and the business community from Sikkim.
He said, “The writ petition that was asked to be filed by the old settlers back in 2013, has not been recorded in the Supreme Court. It is safe to say that the old settlers have misled the Sikkimese Nepali community on the immigrant tag in an attempt for IT exemption in the State.”
“Those behind our misrepresentation must be removed from Sikkim. Since the judgment declares us as immigrants, it should be burned. We have to raise this issue from the streets of Sikkim through the people and take it to the Parliament where it must be discussed and also take it to the Supreme Court to end the tag on Sikkimese Nepali community once and for all,” he added.
Giri questioned, “If the Nepali community are immigrants, does it mean that Sikkim Chief Ministers in the past and legislators were all foreigners? Does it mean that those voting and those seeking votes are also immigrants? The old settlers are the foreigners who came to the Sikkim kingdom as traders. They must apologize and file an affidavit to correct the court verdict. If not, then a collective Legislative Assembly inclusive of all 32 legislators must pass an ordinance to repeal the judgment tagging us as immigrants. What the old settlers are fighting for is part of the ‘Right to Equality’ but they must not stomp upon the rights of an existing inhabitant community to get their rights, that is not justified.”
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Keshav Sapkota, another representative of the Joint Action Committee, informed that JAC will be filing a counter-petition before the February 12 deadline.
He said, “Even if it is through Vidhan Sabha ordinance or through a counter-petition in SC, we have time till February 12 to do all that is needed. This is a mistake and cannot merely blame the Supreme Court or the old settlers’ community. Even the responsibility of the government and politicians must be questioned. Under whose guidance this petition was filed? We have been tagged as foreigners twice before. Till now, we have maintained the brotherhood with the old settlers. The days of brotherhood have come to an end.”
Sapkota declared that the ‘Andolan’ (protest) will not end just at the change in the tag for the Sikkimese Nepali community, but will go on until the community gets equal rights as original inhabitants.
Also Read | State to file review petition in SC to expunge ‘foreigner’ tag on Sikkimese Nepali
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