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When It Comes to CAB, Sikkim needs to be considered as a Special Case

The erstwhile tiny Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim became the 22nd state of India in April, 1975 after a series of socio-political developments and chain of events that led to it joining the Indian union.
|| Soumik Dutta

The seal of approval was provided by the 36th Constitutional Amendment which paved way for the enforcement of Special Status to Sikkim, duly guided and enshrined under the Article 371(f), of the Constitution of India.

Before 1975, under its monarchy, Sikkim was guided by the Sikkim Subject Regulation Act of 1961 and under purview of this Act, only persons registered under this Act or their legal descendents were bonafide citizens or subjects of Sikkimese origin, comprising of Bhutia, Lepcha and Nepalese of Sikkimese origin who were subjects of the Sikkim monarchy, or Chogyal(Dharma Raja), the then king of Sikkim.

Former Sikkim BJP state president and currently, state council member Padam Bahadur Chettri, while speaking to this correspondent said,” There is no need for Citizenship Amendment Bill, as far as Sikkim is concerned, we are guided by the Sikkim Subject Regulation Act 1961”.

“Whether it is CAB or NRC (National Register of Citizens), Sikkim is governed by the Sikkim Citizenship Order of 1975, so from the national security point of view, this should be kept in mind by policy makers. Sikkim shares international borders with China(Tibet Autonomous Region) , Bhutan and Nepal, said Convenor of the Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee(SIBLAC), Tseten Tashi Bhutia.

“ There must be a clause inserted to exempt Sikkim from this citizenship exercise, since it is a border sensitive state under Artcle 371(f) and all stake holders must be taken into confidence for any amendments made”, added Bhutia.

D.B. Basnet, General Secretary of the Sikkim Sangram Parishad Party, which was founded and headed by two-time  former chief minister , the late .Nar Bahadur Bhandari, echoed very much the same sentiments and logic.

“Our party strongly feels that Sikkim must be looked in the perspective of the provisions and sovereign guarantees enshrined under the Article 371(f) and the Sikkim Subjects Regulation Act,  and the Sikkim Citizenship Order. It is not like any other state of India, it is special and the status it deserves is protected under Article 371(f), so the Centre should respect that”, said Basnet, one of the senior most politicians from Sikkim.

“Sikkim’s unique identity and status as protected and defined by Article 371(f) needs to be respected and protected at any cost. I personally feel, and my party too feels that CAB is not for Sikkim, it is not even relevant”, said former Speaker of Sikkim, K.T.Gyaltsen from the Sikkim Democratic Front(SDF), the party that ruled Sikkim for a record 25 years at a stretch.

No official response could be obtained from the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha(SKM) government which is in power in Sikkim.

Speaking at the Lok Sabha today, Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured the house that the Article 371(f) and all provisions under it will remain out of purview of the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 being tabled in parliament.

Earlier, in New Delhi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had assured that the entire North-eastern India will be left out of the new Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) that is set to be introduced in the current winter session of Parliament.

Shah said this after the series of meetings and consultations that he held with political parties, students’ bodies, civil society groups, literary bodies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from the seven North-eastern states.

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