The Himalayan state of north-eastern India has been in turmoil for a week after the Supreme Court of India called the Nepalese of Sikkim ‘foreigners’ during a hearing.
In all the 6 districts of Sikkim, there is strong opposition to the Supreme Court’s comments. The ruling party Sikkim Krantikari Morcha is also on the road. The protesters have given a seven-day ultimatum to immediately ‘correct’ the insult done by the Supreme Court to the entire Indian-Nepalese people.
In the past, sponsored groups have been defaming Nepalis as foreigners,’ Keshav Sapkota, the general secretary of the Gorkha Hit Sarbopari party, told the media, ‘It is a serious and sensitive matter for the Supreme Court to say that Nepalis are foreigners.’
Sikkim Chief Minister Premsingh Tamang (PS Gole)’s political secretary Jacob Khaling, Our Sikkim Party President Bhaichung Bhutia, Sikkim Republican Party President KB Rai have also criticized the Supreme Court’s move. Chief Minister Premsingh Tamang has told the media, “The government will file a writ in the Supreme Court on why Nepalis are called foreigners.”
The interior of the movement
The Himalayan state of Sikkim is mainly inhabited by Nepali, Bhutia and Lepcha communities. Only these three communities have been getting facilities under the ‘Sikkim Subjet’. One of the benefits is income tax exemption.
Before the merger, i.e. in the 1960s, Sikkim was a separate country. Since that time, Marwari and Bihari communities, who have been doing business, have been claiming that they should get income tax exemption along with political rights like Nepali, Bhutia and Lepcha.
According to this, around 500 families who have been living for a long time have formed an organization and have been doing agitation from time to time.
In 2013, an organization called Association of Old Settlers Sikkim (AOSS) filed a case in the Supreme Court with the demand for income tax exemption. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of this organization on January 13. During this decision, the entire Sikkim became agitated after the Supreme Court commented that the majority of Nepali speakers in Sikkim were ‘foreigners’. AOSS General Secretary Amar Agarwal said, “We are also dissatisfied with the defamation of foreigners imposed on Nepali speakers, and we are preparing to file a petition in the Supreme Court to remove it immediately.”
The ripples of the agitation in Sikkim have started spreading across the northeastern state through neighboring Darjeeling.