The Sikkimese people feel betrayed as the Article 371F, which guarantees special provisions for the state since its merger with India in 1975, has been “violated”, according to the former Chief Minister of Sikkim, Pawan Kumar Chamling. Article 371F, which was the basis for the merger of Sikkim with India, states that only the descendants of Sikkim subjects (those who lived in the state before its merger with India) and whose names are mentioned in the 1961 register are Sikkimese and are granted the rights to own land, get State government jobs, as well as being exempt from paying income tax.
However, the financial bill, 2023 redefines Sikkimese as any Indian citizen domiciled in Sikkim, extending to them the same benefits as that of the original inhabitants whose forefathers’ names were in the 1961 register. This redefinition has angered the Sikkimese population and has caused a great concern that land rights, as of now enjoyed only by the subjects of the princely kingdom, will soon be extended to any Indian domiciled in the Himalayan state.
In response to this policy move, the current Sikkim Chief Minister, Prem Singh Tamang, says that Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman assured him in a recent meeting that the amendment was only related to income tax exemption and the original definition of Sikkimese will always be respected.
The political situation in Sikkim has also become increasingly turbulent since the elections. According to Chmaling, since the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) came to power in 2019, 68 SDF workers and leaders have been injured in violence and opposition party offices have been vandalised. He has also accused the Chief Minister of using incendiary language in a speech and confirmed that politics in Sikkim have become “violent”.
Sikkim Development Front (SDF) supremo, Pawan Kumar Chamling, hopes that the Central and the Election Commission of India (ECI) will impose President’s rule to ensure a free and fair elections before the 2024 polls. He promised, if voted to power, to restore the peace in the state, reduce the unemployment figures and complete pending projects.
Lastly, the former Chief Minister announced his Sikkim Bachao Yatra indicating that the people in Sikkim have been positive and he is confident of his return to power come the elections. He will select party candidates on the basis of their opinion and mostly young people will be nominated.
In conclusion, the delicate political situation in the state of Sikkim is still in flux and may remain an important political issue in the future. The redefinition of the Sikkimese under the current government and the ongoing lawlessness in the state is a threatening situation for Sikkim. The SDF, headed by former Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, is seeking to have President’s rule in the state and has promised to restore the original provisions of Article 371F if it comes to power.