Gangtok: The Joint Action Committee, which has been advocating for the removal of the ‘immigrant’ tag from the Sikkimese Nepali community, has called for a statewide shutdown on February 8, 2023.
The shutdown is meant to send a message to the Union government in response to the recent Supreme Court verdict that designated the Sikkimese Nepali community as “immigrants” and struck down the use of the term “Sikkimese” in its observation.
At the first rally organized by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) on January 31, 2023, the JAC gave the state government a seven-day deadline, ending on February 7, to take action on their concerns.
According to JAC General Secretary Keshav Sapkota, the protest was called because the state government did not take action within the given deadline.
On February 8, the JAC expects at least three members from each family to participate in a protest.
“The JAC does not support protests called by individuals or political parties, such as the SKM or SDF and any protests organized by political parties are their own stance and will not be supported by the JAC, which has no political affiliation,” Sapkota said.
The JAC has cited the public demand for the shutdown, stating that they welcome the state government’s decision to hold a legislative assembly session on February 9.
“The responsibility to solve this issue lies with the state government and they should listen to the voices of the public, despite any acts of violence that may occur. The JAC is giving the government time to take action,” Sapkota said.
The Joint Action Committee also stated that their future actions will depend on the outcome of the February 9 Legislative Assembly session, as well as the outcome of a meeting between various political groups and members of the state government with Union Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence today.
However, with recent violent rallies in Sikkim, the JAC emphasized that they do not support any violence or anti-national activities. “All our rallies are conducted with the National flag and the singing of the National Anthem, as a way to put pressure on the central government through public participation. The JAC only wishes for shops and establishments to shut down, but cannot intervene with emergency services. We are above political parties as this fight is for the larger Sikkimese community,” Sapkota said.
The committee currently has Shanta Pradhan as its president and six vice presidents. Pradhan and other representatives from the JAC are currently in New Delhi to present their demands to the Union government.
According to Sapkota, the JAC has formed committees at the Gram Panchayat Unit level and there will be protests in every village during the shutdown. “However, if a decision from the central government is made before the shutdown, we will reconsider our plans,” Sapkota said adding that they were not mentally prepared to meet with the Home Minister, but the decision will depend on an internal discussion within the committee.
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