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Regular-article-logo Thursday, 13 June 2024

Bhaichung Bhutia party to seek SC ‘migrant’ slur removal

He said the immigrant tag was an injustice to the Sikkimese of Nepali origin

Rajeev Ravidas Gangtok Published 26.11.18, 09:05 PM
Bhaichung Bhutia

Bhaichung Bhutia Telegraph file picture

The Hamro Sikkim Party on Monday raked up an old Supreme Court judgment in which Sikkimese of Nepali origin were described as “immigrants from Nepal” to spite state chief minister Pawan Chamling by accusing him of doing nothing to remove the slur on the community.

Addressing a press conference here, HSP leader Bhaichung Bhutia said since the ruling Sikkim Democratic Party had failed to deliver on its promise of 25 years, his party would move the Supreme Court in few days to get the word “immigrant” expunged or changed from the verdict.

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“We will take up the issue, not just in our speeches, but by approaching the Supreme Court in the next few days to get the word changed or modified. We have hired a team of lawyers and have been working on it for weeks now,” he said.

Bhutia said the immigrant tag was an injustice to the Sikkimese of Nepali origin because they are as much a part of Sikkim as the Bhutias and Lepchas. “Before Sikkim merged with India, Nepalese, Bhutias and Lepcha lived here, and they have living even after its merger, which is a fact recognised by the government of India. When Sikkmese Nepalese are labeled immigrants, it makes us all sad,” he said.

The word “immigrants” was used by the Supreme Court in its 1993 verdict in the R. C. Poudyal versus Union of India case while providing the historical background of Sikkim, and not in the operative part of the judgment.

Poudyal, a veteran politician, had unsuccessfully filed the case in the apex court to challenge the reservation of 12 out of the 32 seats in the Assembly for Lepchas and Bhutias and one for the sangha, which is a body of monks.

Analysts said by raking up the immigrant issue, Bhutia was getting back at Chamling and trying to woo the Nepali community.

“HSP accuses Chamling of disparagingly calling Bhaichung a Bhutia, implying thereby that he wouldn’t be espousing the cause of the majority Nepalese. By voicing his empathy with the community, he is trying to put Chamling in place,” said an analyst.

Quoting from the SDF’s election manifesto of 1994, Bhutia said apart from getting the immigrant word removed, Chamling’s party had also promised to restore reservation of Assembly seats for the Nepali community, but has come a cropper on that count as well. “I want to ask Mr Pawan Chamling what he has been able to do (about them) in 25 years?” asked the HSP leader.

Bhutia said it is probably because of the tag of immigrant that the Nepali communities, including the Limbus and Tamangs, have not been able to get reservation of seats in the Assembly so far. “We are in favour of Limbu-Tamang seats. We are also in favour of restoring Nepali seats in the Assembly,” he said.

Prior to the merger of Sikkim with India in 1975, the 32-member Sikkim legislature was reserved equally between the Bhutia-Lepcha communities and the Nepali communities, but following the merger and after the Bhutias and Lepchas were granted tribal status in 1978, their quota in the Assembly was adjusted to 12, two seats were reserved for the Scheduled Castes and one for the sangha and the rest declared general seats.

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