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Sikkim govt to withdraw controversial bill

In a sudden move the government of Sikkim decided to withdraw The Sikkim prevention and control of disturbance of public order bill which has triggered a lot of controversy and unrest in the Himalayan State. Amitava Banerjee reports.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2011 22:07 IST
Amitava Banerjee

In a sudden move the government of Sikkim decided to withdraw the Sikkim prevention and control of disturbance of public order bill which has triggered a lot of controversy and unrest in the Himalayan state.

A release from the information and public relations department, government of Sikkim, late on Tuesday evening declared the withdrawal of the bill but did not state any reason for this sudden move.

The withdrawal however comes on the wake of a release from the Sikkim govenor's office on August 15. The press release signed by BP Singh, governor, Sikkim, had suggested that the bill be withdrawn.

Chief minister Pawan Chamling who is also the minister of home affairs, government of Sikkim, had tabled a bill (bill No. 10 of 2011) The Sikkim prevention and control of disturbance of public order bill on August 11 at the Sikkim assembly to be discussed and passed on August 26.

This proposed bill contains a section which reads "Holding of procession, hunger strike or squatting or shouting of slogans or waving black flags or other such agitation methods, tendency or potentiality of promoting enmity or hatred or disaffection between groups or sections or communities on grounds of religion, race or caste shall be deemed to be disturbance of public order" and is punishable by imprisonment of five years and a fine of Rs 50,000/-.

The bill raked up a lot of controversy with the opposition parties of Sikkim raising the ante. The parties dubbing the bill a "black bill" united gave a call for the boycott of Independence Day celebrations as symbolic protest. Effigies of Chamling were burnt and protest rallies taken out.

A memorandum was also sent by the opposition parties and some social organizations of Sikkim to the President of India on August 15, requesting the President to look into this and intervene at the earliest and ascertain whether "these sort of legislations should be allowed in the world's largest democracy, and to also save the State of Sikkim from being pushed into an era of anarchy and feudalism."

Copies of the memorandum have been sent to the Prime Minister, law minister and home minister, government of India.

"Your Excellency, the opposition in Sikkim feels such a bill not only aims to crush the opposition, but also goes against the fundamental rights for citizens as enshrined in the Constitution of India, and has decided to protest and oppose this "black bill" in the strongest terms possible. Such protests are especially important as all 32 seats in the Sikkim Assembly are populated with MLA’s from the ruling party, and we fear the proposed bill shall be passed as it is" stated the memorandum.

Reacting to the sudden withdrawal of the bill, Biraj Adhikari, Opposition leader remarked "I do not have faith in this sudden withdrawal assurance until it is translated into action in the Assembly."

Political observers feel that the government could withdraw and cite the reasons for withdrawal on August 26, the earlier stipulated date to discuss and pass the bill.