Protests in Sikkim against SC verdict describing Sikkimese as Nepali immigrants
Prem Singh Tamang, chief minister of Sikkim, has already said the government would file a petition in the Supreme Court and has already taken up the matter with Kiren Rijiju, the union law minister
Sikkim witnessed peaceful protests across the north eastern state after the Supreme Court, while hearing a case, observed that Sikkimese Nepalis were people of foreign origin.
The protesters have set a deadline of seven days for the state government to act and ‘rectify’ the alleged humiliation.
Jacob Khaling, political secretary to the chief minister of Sikkim, Keshav Sapkota, general secretary of JAC, Bhaichung Bhutia, president of Hamro Sikkim Party, KB Rai, president of Sikkim Republican Party have all condemned the observation of the apex court.
“We give a time of seven days to the state government to pass a resolution in the state assembly in regard to the rectification of the apex court’s observation before the state government formally files petition for the objectionable words. The same time period has also been given to the AOSS to file a petition in the Supreme Court for the removal of the objectionable words,” said Sapkota.
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The JAC has also demanded removal of Sudesh Joshi, the additional advocate general of Sikkim.
Not only Sikkim, in Darjeeling too, there has been protests against the Supreme Court’s observation.
Raju Bista, BJP’s Lok Sabha MP from Darjeeling, BP Bajgain, BJP MLA from Kurseong and Kishore Bharati, spokesperson of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha have also issued press releases and protested against the remark.
Prem Singh Tamang, chief minister of Sikkim, has already said the government would file a petition in the Supreme Court and has already taken up the matter with Kiren Rijiju, the union minister for law and justice.
Amar Agarwal, general secretary, AOSS said, “Steps are being taken from our end for removal of those words and we will file a petition from our end in the apex court once again for removal of those words.”
On January 13, while delivering its verdict on the petition filed by Association of Old Settlers of Sikkim (AOSS), demanding exemption of income tax for the old settlers who had settled in Sikkim before its merger with India on April 26 1975, the apex court had observed that Sikkimese Nepalis were people of foreign origin.
The apex court also exempted old settlers of Indian origin from paying income tax.
The Indian Income Tax Act 1961 was applicable in Sikkim with effect from April 1, 2008 vide section 10 of 26 AAA wherein majority of Sikkimese population were exempted from paying Income Tax and the term Sikkimese was defined.
The old settlers of Indian origin residing in Sikkim prior to the merger were left out from the said definition.
The AOSS in 2013 filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking exemption from paying income tax and the judgement in their favour came on January 13 this year.
Though the verdict in favour of old settlers was widely welcomed, the apex court’s observation terming Sikkimese Nepalis as people of foreign origin triggered an unrest with political parties and several organisations taking out protest rallies regularly from Monday.
On Tuesday, the joint action committee (JAC) formed few days ago, organised rallies in all the six districts of the Himalayan state.
On Monday, ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) took out a rally in Gangtok.
Leaders of various political parties like SKM and BJP participated in the rallies on Tuesday while other political parties also protested against the apex court’s observation.
According to 1891 census of Sikkim, the population of Sikkim - which was a separate sovereign country till 1975 - was 30,458.
Among them, Bhutia and Lepcha were 10,656 while the Nepalis were 19,802. Bhutia, Lepcha and Nepali are the three main communities in Sikkim.
Out of the six chief ministers so far Sikkim had, five were Nepalis and majority of the population is also Nepali. Most of the old settlers in Sikkim are into trade and business.