Former Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling-led SDF on Friday called a 48-hour Sikkim bandh on February 4 and 5 to “convey a public message” to the Centre over the ‘foreigner’ remark against Sikkimese Nepali community in a recent Supreme Court judgement.
Chamling, the president of the opposition Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) party, said: “Through this bandh, we must send a strong message from the people of Sikkim to the Central government that the people of the Sikkimese Nepali community are not foreigners. It is not possible for people to come up individually and raise their voice. We need a collective demonstration from the people of Sikkim. In a democracy, calling a bandh is the most appropriate measure to show our collective protest against the foreigner and immigrant stain on us.”
At the same time, the former 5-term Chief Minister appealed that the proposed Sikkim bandh should be “peaceful and non-violent”, and sought support from the people in the interest of the Sikkim Nepali community and Sikkim.
Though bandhs are rare in Sikkim, currently there is widespread discontentment among the majority Nepali speaking community after the Supreme Court referred them as persons of “foreign origin” in its verdict of January 31 over a petition filed by the Association of Old Settlers of Sikkim.
Interestingly, the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) is celebrating its 11th party foundation day on February 4.
“People should boycott SKM foundation day. The SKM is doing celebrations after making the Sikkimese Nepali community refugees. The stain on the Sikkimese Nepali community and dilution of Sikkimese status has happened during the SKM government. The SKM government failed to object in court when the Sikkimese Nepalis were being made stateless,” Chamling told the media after a day-long dharna and rally in Gangtok against the Supreme Court’s remark.
The SDF president maintained that such references against the Sikkimese Nepali community raise questions on the 1975 Referendum that saw the abolition of the monarchy and merger of the then kingdom of Sikkim with India.
Eighty per cent of the voters in the referendum were Sikkimese Nepali and if they are now foreigners, as per the nation’s highest court, then it automatically raises doubts about the referendum’s legality and status of Sikkim, he said.
Various political parties and organisations are holding daily rallies in different parts of Sikkim to protest the immigrant tag on the Sikkimese Nepali community.
A senior minister, Mani Kumar Sharma has already resigned from the cabinet, blaming the SKM government for not taking the sentiments of the people seriously.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang has said that the Sikkim government has filed review petitions before the apex court.
“This is to inform everyone that the government of Sikkim has filed review petitions before the Supreme Court for suitably addressing the grievances and sentiments of the people of Sikkim concerning certain observations in the judgment pronounced on January 13,” said Tamang in his official social media account on Thursday evening.
Additional Advocate General of Sikkim and the Law Secretary, Sikkim government, are handling the matter in Delhi with legal experts, said the Chief Minister, adding, he is going to the national capital to personally meet Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and top law officials of the country for further action.
“I reassure everyone that the matter is being dealt with in all seriousness, and I will do everything possible to protect the rights and dignity of all the Sikkimese people,” he said.