Gangtok: Joint Action Council, following the FIR for bringing in children in the Sikkimese Ekta Diwas on Holi, questioned if “uniting Sikkimese people was a crime?'”.
The FIR was filed on March 8 by Roma Tamang, Chairperson of Sikkim Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Government of Sikkim, challenging JAC’s future course and tagging it for being politicised.
Dejected JAC executives, led by President Shanta Pradhan, addressed the media on Saturday regarding the FIR.
They stated that the Sikkimese Unity Festival was not opposing any community, and they were not boycotting Holi, which is celebrated by 80 per cent of Hindus in Sikkim. “However, our Unity festival was targeted for having children in attendance. The children had come with many seniors, and they had joined out of their free will. It was not even a rally but an exhibition of their unity. Now people are worried about who will be caught after the FIR,” Pradhan said.
The JAC’s General Secretary, Keshav Sapkota, supported the president’s statement, saying that it’s not the FIR that is disappointing, but the reason behind it is what’s disappointing. He added that every time they try to unite, someone takes advantage of it for political gains or other reasons.
Regarding the recent comments of Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay on JAC being politicised, President Pradhan clarified that they only want to provide suggestions to the government and help them. He added that the people are unable to pay loans and bills, and the government says these are not issues of JAC, but issues of Sikkim. If the government thinks they are doing politics, they can show them the exit.
Regarding the recent controversy surrounding JAC and its fight to keep Residential Certificate holders from filing government tenders, the JAC asserted that only Sikkim Subject holders and Certificate of Identification holders should have the right to file for government tenders. They argued that the tender notification and subsequent actions by JAC members were a result of the pent-up emotions of the youth. They questioned how many jobs the government would provide and how many people would come forward with such requests. They also pointed out the lack of policies and better suggestions in this regard.
The JAC also clarified its unbiased stand, claiming that they have been tagged for doing politics despite being unbiased on politics and societal understanding.
They stated that they are answerable to the concerns of the people, especially the youth who question them on economic disparity and the dilution of certain rights of Sikkimese people from government jobs to businesses. The JAC believes that these issues have the potential to create a communal divide until everyone unites together as Sikkimese.
Regarding accusations of JAC working for the government, Pradhan stated that they are not working for the government nor against it. “We are not here for politics or community, but to be a part of Sikkim and its economy for its betterment. We are against violence and in support of their peaceful stand, believing that solutions can be achieved without violence. Our main question is why the money is going only to a few and not to the youth,” he said.
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On the all-party meeting called by JAC and the resolution passed, JAC asserted that they called for an all-party meeting in February and passed a resolution. They plan to submit the resolution to the union and state governments. They feel that Sikkim Subject gives them protection in the economy, and hence, they believe that Article 371F should not be threatened. They want a constitutional expert to discuss Sikkimese identity not being diluted. They want an answer on whether Article 14 of the Indian Constitution overrides Article 371F (after the SC verdict). They want constitutional experts to assure them of the same, as the identity is a concern for all Sikkimese, including future generations.
JAC also asked the Sikkimese people about their future course after the Supreme Court resolved the issue of the Sikkimese Nepali immigrant tag. Pradhan lamented, “JAC is currently at a crossroads regarding its future. Many people have been transferred from their jobs for joining JAC. We are in a situation where we cannot even celebrate our own festival. After the Supreme Court verdict, there is a perspective that JAC should dissolve since there are no further issues. But our concerns delve into the protection of Sikkimese people and Sikkim under Article 371F, as well as how 95 per cent of the Sikkimese economy depends on outside influence. How long can our people work for meagre private jobs in different parts of the country and the state? How long should our people be dependent on government jobs?”
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