AA EDIT | SC must heed Sikkim sentiments

Protests broke out in the Himalayan state after the apex court delivered its verdict

The decision of Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Tamang to have his state government file a review petition in the Supreme Court, against the observations of the SC itself, and seek a rectification because of its huge impact on the state, and the country, is very welcome. The apex court will, we can hope, in its highest wisdom appreciate the concerns of the people and assuage it while delivering justice.

Protests broke out in the Himalayan state after the apex court delivered a verdict in a sensitive case relating to ethnicity, place or nation of origin, the longevity of their connection with the land and the status of citizenship to the state. After Sikkim was merged into India, the Income Tax Act, 1961, provided for Section 10(26AAA), which decided to exempt the citizens of the mountain state from I-T.

The petition in the Supreme Court, on which the court delivered a verdict recently, argued that while migrants from other countries like Nepal who had migrated to Sikkim were getting the benefits, people of Indian origin from other states were being arbitrarily denied the same.

The Supreme Court, even while it allowed the continuation of exemption from I-T to “all old settlers cutting across ethnic lines”, made an observation that Nepali Sikkimese were immigrants.

The Nepalis, who have connections dating back to over a century and a half or more, felt emotionally hurt and political parties, led by the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, took to massive protests and held protest rallies. This has led to the resurgence of the highly emotionally charged debate on who is a native and who is an immigrant, disturbing the peace in the border state.

Sikkim, which broadly comprises of three main groups, Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalis, now finds itself divided with the Supreme Court observation stating that while Lepchas and Bhutias have original nativity, all Sikkim Nepalis are of foreign origin and are immigrants, leading them to protest.

Hopefully, the apex court would reconsider the observation’s validity, and restore peace at the earliest with a wiser pronouncement on the issue.

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