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Claim: Delhi word on ‘Sikkimese’ review plea

Description of Sikkimese Nepalis as 'persons of foreign origin' and redefinition of term 'Sikkimese' by SC have created turmoil
Leaders of JAC and the BJP with Amit Shah in New Delhi on Sunday
Leaders of JAC and the BJP with Amit Shah in New Delhi on Sunday

Rajeev Ravidas   |   Gangtok   |   Published 07.02.23, 03:25 AM

Union home minister Amit Shah has purportedly given an assurance that the Centre will file a review petition in the Supreme Court against a recent Supreme Court judgment that described Sikkimese Nepalis as those of “foreign origin”.

Shah is understood to have given such an assurance in his meeting with a joint delegation of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) and the Sikkim unit of the BJP in New Delhi on Sunday night.


The description of the Sikkimese Nepalis as “persons of foreign  origin” and the redefinition of the term “Sikkimese”  by the Supreme Court have created turmoil in the otherwise peaceful Himalayan state.

In a press release issued from New Delhi on Monday, Shanta Pradhan, the JAC president, said the Union home minister had informed the delegation that he was well aware of the developments and had initiated necessary measures to address the issue.

“He further said that he had studied the judgment thoroughly and discussed it with Union Finance Ministry, Solicitor General and the office of the Registrar General of India on the issue and had taken a decision to file a joint Review Petition (Home Ministry and Finance Ministry) in the Hon’ble Supreme Court respecting the Sikkimese sentiment and their distinct identity,” Pradhan said.

The delegation, Pradhan said, told Shah that the verdict had hurt the sentiments of the Sikkimese Nepalis by creating an identity crisis in contravention of historical facts, constitutional provisions and evidence, leading to the distortion of the Sikkimese people’s distinct ethnic identity. 

“The Hon’ble Minister further informed that the Government of India is aware of the special status of Sikkim and the distinct identity of the Sikkimese community. Thus, distorting the definition of the term “Sikkimese’ and its terming the Sikkimese Nepalese community as person of foreign origin settled in Sikkim was beyond the purview of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and was not based on the historical facts and evidences,” said the release.

In its judgment extending income tax exemption to 400-odd old settlers, the Supreme Court had used words like “foreign origin” and “migrants” to describe the Sikkimese Nepalis and also directed the Centre to amend the relevant section of the Income Tax Act by incorporating the old settlers within the definition of Sikkimese.     

The delegation also urged Shah to immediately implement the Inner-Line Permit (ILP) system in Sikkim in view of the rising influx of outsiders into the state threatening its delicate demography that could lead to potential ethnic crisis and conflict which would be detrimental to national security.

“He (Shah) assured the delegates to examine the matter from various perspectives,” said Pradhan.

The Sikkim government had on Sunday constituted a nine-member committee headed by the JAC chairman to look into the adaptability of the ILP in the state.

Bhaichung Bhutia, the president of Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP), which has for long been demanding the introduction of ILP system in the state, said the government must pass a resolution in the Assembly, which will hold a special session on Thursday, in favour of ILP. Once the ILP is in place, outsiders need permission to enter Sikkim.   

Bhutia also held the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha government responsible for the “foreigner” tag in the Supreme Court verdict and demanded the resignation of chief minister P. S. Tamang (Golay).

While welcoming Shah’s assurance, the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), however, alleged that serious mistakes had been made by the SKM government during the course of the hearings, for which Golay must resign. “It is amazing to see the SKM Govt becoming hyper-active post the judgement just to cover up their serious lapses as clearly visible now,” said P.D. Rai, a senior vice-president of the party.

The SDF also extended its support to the bandh called by JAC on Wednesday on the issue.

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