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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 23 April 2024

Joint Action Council calls for Sikkimese Unity Day on March 8

Joint Action Council urges Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis to show their oneness

Rajeev Ravidas Siliguri Published 02.03.23, 12:49 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Picture

The apolitical Joint Action Council (JAC) has decided to observe March 8 as “Sikkimese Unity Day” to celebrate the display of solidarity by the Sikkimese Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis in the wake of the Supreme Court’s January 13 verdict granting income tax exemption to the Indian origin old settlers.

Addressing a press conference in Gangtok on Wednesday, Sonam Sherpa, a JAC spokesman, said members of the three communities were urged to assemble at MG Marg in the state capital in their traditional attire on that day to demonstrate their unity before the entire country.

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“To those who cannot attend, we request them to go about their business on that day by wearing their traditional dresses,” he said.

Apart from the “foreign origin” remark made about the Sikkimese Nepalis, the Supreme Court had also directed the Centre to amend the definition of the term “Sikkimese” by including the old settlers in it for the purpose of granting them income tax exemption.

However, in its subsequent order on February 8, the court, besides deleting the “foreign origin” remark, had also expunged the line in which it had fixed the date — April 1, 2022 — from which the old settlers were to have been granted the tax sop.

On Monday, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who is currently on a visit to the Himalayan state, had assured the Sikkimese people that there had been no change in the term “Sikkimese” as the court case had already been dealt with by the Centre.

Sherpa, however, said the issue of Sikkimese identity was still alive, and it was important to send across the message of “Sikkimese unity” at this juncture.

In a related development, the main opposition Sikkim Democratic Front(SDF) on Wednesday decided against celebrating its foundation day on Saturday and, instead, mark the day as “Shok Diwas (Day of mourning)” in view of the alleged loss of Sikkimese identity and dilution ofArticle 371F of the Constitution, which provides special status to Sikkim.

The decision to observe “Shok Diwas” was taken at the party’s central executive committee meeting in Gangtok.

“The extreme implication of this (verdict) is yet to be explained to the people of Sikkim at large. Hence, we are going for the ‘ShokDiwas’ in direct opposition to the ‘Vijay Diwas’ held by the SKM and organised in association with the AoSS in Singtam on the 20th February 2023,” said the SDF in a release.

AOSS is the Association of Old Settlers of Sikkim that had filed the case in the Apex Court in 2013 seeking income tax exemption on par with the Sikkimese Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis.

The release said SDF president Pawan Chamling squarely held the SKM government responsible for mishandling the case.

“The manner in which the state government overlooked the whole process of the case and in which the affidavits filed by the previous governments were simply not referred to in the arguments does smack of unholy collusion. In fact, the 371F conditionalities were never explained. This, the learned Judges, did mention in the orders delivered on the revised petitions,” the release quoted Chamling as having told the meeting.

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