Sikkim’s socio-political landscape reverberated with uproar following accusations leveled against Raju Basnet, Secretary of the Sports Department, for purportedly making disparaging comments against Chogyal of Sikkim during a crucial meeting advocating tribal status for 12 ethnic groups in Sikkim.
The allegations surfaced amidst a delegation led by the Chief Minister of Sikkim and members of EIECOS while meeting Union Tribal Minister Arjun Munda on December 7 in Delhi to champion the cause of tribal recognition for these communities.
Bhaichung Bhutia, a prominent figure in Sikkim’s political realm, vehemently condemned the alleged remarks, stating, “The reported comments made by Raju Basnet during the meeting questioning the tribal status of Bhutia-Lepcha communities are unacceptable.”
Expressing dismay at Basnet’s remarks, Bhutia highlighted the need for solidarity among communities and denounced attempts to undermine the rights of those already possessing tribal status.
Passang Sherpa, General Secretary of Sikkimay Nagarik Samaj, echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing Basnet’s purported comparison of the Maharaja Chogyal and Bhutia-Lepcha communities to the Mughal King Babar as deeply concerning.
“At around 10:00 AM on December 6, the delegation led by the Sikkim CM met with Arjun Munda. This meeting was broadcast live on the ‘Yangthang ko Thatya’ Facebook page. The Chief Minister initially addressed Arjun Munda, then allowed Mr. Raju Basnet to speak.”
“Raju Basnet compared the Maharaja Chogyal of Sikkim and the BL community to the Mughal King Babar, who is historically known as a notorious king. He stated that, unlike Babar and his family who do not have tribal status in India, the Chogyal and his community are recognized as tribal in Sikkim.”
Sherpa urged clarity from other high-ranking officials present during the meeting, urging them to address the issue. He said, “During the meeting, the Sikkim CM, SLA Speaker, and cabinet ministers were present but did not intervene or clarify Raju Basnet’s remarks. Now, the Sikkim CM, SLA Speaker, and cabinet ministers must clarify their position on this issue.” He added
Sonam Sherpa, President of the Sikkim Sherpa Protection Board, in a strong-worded press release, denounced Basnet’s alleged statements, labeling them derogatory and objectionable.
Sherpa said, “Sikkim Sherpa Protection Board strongly condemns the derogatory and objectionable statement made by Raju Basnett against Maharaja Chogyal and his descendants during their meeting with Union Tribal Minister Arjun Munda in Delhi on 6th December 2023.”
“The said meeting was attended by the Chief Minister PS Golay, Speaker Arun Upreti, cabinet ministers, and the representatives of 12 left out communities of Sikkim. The demand of Tribal Status to the 12 left out communities is a long pending demand and all communities of Sikkim wholeheartedly supports the demand.” Added Sherpa
“However, it is unfortunate on part of Raju Basnett to compare the Chogyal and his descendants to that of Mughal Emperor Babur and his descendants. This comparison is an indirect way of attacking the rights of Bhutia-Lepcha community guaranteed by the Constitution of India” Sherpa concluds
Efforts to obtain a statement from Raju Basnet by Sikkim Chronicle proved futile as he remained unreachable despite multiple attempts.