Darjeeling MLA Neeraj Zimba on Sunday tendered an unconditional apology to the people of Sikkim for “inadvertently hurting their sentiments” after his remark had been widely condemned in the Himalayan state as being derogatory.
Talking to The Telegraph, Zimba said his remark in a recent video interview was not intended to be a sweeping generalisation of the people of Sikkim.
“I have nothing but enormous amount of respect for the people of Sikkim with whom we share very close ties. I have no hesitation in tendering an unconditional apology to them for inadvertently hurting their sentiments,” said Zimba, a GNLF leader who won the Darjeeling Assembly bypoll last year on a BJP ticket.
The part in the Zimba interview that has gotten the goat of the Sikkimese people is where he compares them to the people of Darjeeling.
“The public here (read Darjeeling hills) are not like those of Sikkim who get sold over a piece of corrugated sheet,” he says in his long-winded answer to a query on political parties treating the people of Darjeeling as fools.
The clip containing the comment was shared widely in the social media, prompting Sikkim Lok Sabha member Indra Hang Subba and his party colleague Jacob Khaling, the political adviser to Sikkim chief minister P.S. Tamang (Golay), to issue separate statements on Sunday, condemning the remark and demanding an unconditional apology from Zimba.
“I condemn (the) statement made by Darjeeling MLA Neeraj Zimba…He must apologise in public. It is (an) absolutely derogatory statement…He has no right to make any statement whatsoever regarding Sikkim and (the) Sikkimese people,” said Subba.
GTA chairman Anit Thapa said even though Zimba’s remark might have been a “slip of tongue”, leaders from the hills should be mindful of what they say. He also reassured the people of Sikkim of continuing the tradition of maintaining close ties between them and the people of the hills.
Khaling, on his part, has reminded the Darjeeling MLA that the people of Darjeeling and Sikkim have always shared a very close bonding with their common language, culture and tradition and have always come to the aid of each other in times of need. “Such statements do not just hurt the sentiments of the Sikkimese people but they also create a rift in the healthy relationship that both have nourished and nurtured over the decades,” he said.
Both Khaling and Subba also said the remark had not only hurt the sentiments of the people of Sikkim, but the people of Darjeeling should also be equally aggrieved.