Why is Joint Action Council 'unsatisfied' with recent Assembly resolution on Sikkimese identity?
Members of Joint Action Council at a press conference

Gangtok: The Joint Action Council, which is leading the fight for the rights of the Sikkimese Nepali community, has expressed dissatisfaction with the resolution passed by the state government regarding Sikkimese identity.

They have questioned the government on why two of their demands were not included in the assembly resolution passed on February 9, 2023.

During a press conference at the Press Club of Sikkim on Sunday, JAC President Shanta Pradhan stated, “There has been a mixed reaction to the Supreme Court’s order of February 8 and the resolution passed by the Sikkim Legislative Assembly on February 9. Some people believe that the issues raised by JAC have been addressed, while others feel that this has not been achieved.”

Pradhan emphasized the meeting with Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay on February 3 and the three main demands that JAC had made to be included in the special assembly. These demands were: the complete removal of the “foreigner” label and recognition of Sikkimese as Indians; the restoration of Nepali seats in the Assembly; and clarification on the impact of the income tax exemption judgment on Article 371F and the definition of Sikkimese.

Pradhan added, “Our concern is that the Association of Old Settlers of Sikkim (AOSS) might seek other socio-political rights that are being exclusively granted to the Sikkimese.”

JAC Vice President Passang Sherpa stated that the council is not satisfied with the resolution adopted by the special assembly session on February 9. He said, “The resolution did not provide a clear definition of Sikkimese and did not address the restoration of Nepali seats in the Assembly. The only solution to these persistent allegations against the Sikkimese Nepali community is the restoration of Sikkimese Nepali seats in the Assembly, but this was not included in the resolution.”

Sherpa pointed out that the AOSS secured income tax exemption by portraying the Sikkimese Nepali as “foreigners,” despite the fact that such remarks were removed from the January 13th verdict of the Supreme Court. He said, “Now it is an issue for Parliament to address, and before that, the Sikkim Legislative Assembly must clarify and establish who the real Sikkimese are.”

Sherpa also added, “When the issue comes before Parliament for amendment, the Sikkim government and our MPs must have a clear stance, and this will only be clarified when the SLA provides a clear definition of Sikkimese. Once the definition of Sikkimese is clarified, we will not need to constantly convince the Government of India and Parliament. The resolution will act as the most crucial document in Parliament.”

Regarding the question of whether the old settlers should receive income tax exemptions, Sherpa justified, “When 90% of the economy is in their hands, all the money is in their hands, and they have big businesses if they are not paying income tax, then who will? This is not justified. Secondly, they must understand that the way they applied for income tax exemptions has violated peace in Sikkim. Hence, they must understand that the implementation of Article 14 in Sikkim is being ensured through income tax exemptions. To save the existence of the Sikkimese identity, the honour of Sikkimese, and Article 371F, they must voluntarily withdraw their request for income tax exemptions. So far, they have not even once come forward to apologize to the people of Sikkim. This shows that they have a wrong intention towards Sikkimese, which we condemn.”

TThe Joint Action Council (JAC) has established an in-house expert committee to investigate the legal, constitutional, and socio-political questions resulting from the Supreme Court orders of January 13 and February 8, and the resolution passed by the Sikkim Legislative Assembly on February 9.

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The expert committee will submit its report to several sub-committees within a week, and the JAC’s central executive committee will then receive recommendations for the next steps.

Pradhan stated that the JAC will proceed based on the report and recommendations of the expert committee and sub-committees. “We will follow the roadmap recommended by the expert committee and JAC sub-committees,” he stated.

Also Read | UP BJP legislator Lakshman Acharya appointed as Sikkim’s new Governor

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