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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

Nepal vlogger in Sikkim political crosshairs: Pawan Chamling-led SDF slams Uma Chamling's arrest

'Artistes should not be made pawns of political maneuvering,' a singer from Nepal told this newspaper

Vivek Chhetri Darjeeling Published 02.01.24, 09:30 AM
Uma Chamling Rai, the vlogger from Nepal

Uma Chamling Rai, the vlogger from Nepal The Telegraph

The recent arrest of Uma Chamling Rai, a vlogger from Nepal, by Sikkim police and her subsequent pushback to her country has created a flutter on both sides of the international border.

The events also gave an insight into the intense politicking between Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) and Opposition Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) ahead of the Sikkim Assembly polls.

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Sources said Uma, with about 1.1 lakh followers on Facebook, was arrested on December 30 and booked under sections 153A, 153B, 505 (1) and 505 (2), sections against promoting enmity between different groups, after she posted a video asking the Rai community to attend a Udhauli Sakewa, a festival of the Rai community, to be held at Legship at West Sikkim on December 30.

Jacob Khaling, spokesman of the ruling SKM had termed the Legship festival an event of the SDF. The organisers of the Legship festival denied the allegations.

Also, SKM president and Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Tamang (Golay) attended another Udhauli Sakewa festival in Namchi on December 26.

On Monday, Uma posted a video on her Facebook to state that she had been pushed back to Nepal. “I want to thank the Sikkim government and the Sikkim people for this gift. I will never forget this incident in my lifetime. I was thrown inside a jail for speaking about my community….I do not think I talked about anything political,” said Uma.

Many artistes from Nepal condemned the arrest. "Artistes should not be made pawns of political maneuvering," a singer from Nepal told this newspaper.

Sikkim police said that they took Uma in custody after receiving a complaint and because they received information that “her personal security was under threat.”

Although the court remanded Uma to five days in police remand, the police decided to push her back to Nepal on Sunday. “We will file a report (about the pushback and their action) before the court in due time,” said a police officer.

The Pawan Chamling-led SDF attacked the Sikkim government for the arrest. “The arrest is a sign of desperation, frustration of the present government. Their action proves that the administration is in doldrums. She (Uma) had not spoken in favour of the SDF,” said Tshering Wangdi Lepcha, SDF senior vice-president.

The SKM camp, however, insisted, said that SDF had instigated Uma to create online content that could cause a rift within the community. “The SDF conducted a three-day seminar at Delo in Kalimpong from June 9 to 11 and another three-day seminar at Batabari Dooars from May 5 to 7. People guiding Uma during her stay in Sikkim were the ones who attended the SDF’s closed-door seminars in these two places,” said a source from the SKM camp.

Observers maintain that the row around Uma indicated the intensity of the contest ahead of the Sikkim Assembly elections.

Golay had ousted Chamling, who had ruled the state for 25 years, in the 2019 elections by winning 17 of the 32 seats. Chamling is trying to make a comeback this year.

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