SC StoriesSocial Issues

Hate Speech Against Christian Community of Sikkim; Citizens and Leaders Act as a Shield

On August 29 1947, a drafting Committee of seven was set up under the Chairmanship of Dr. B R. Ambedkar for drafting a permanent Indian Constitution for the nation of recently independent India. India adopted the Constitution on November 26 1949, the constitution then came into effect on January 26 1950. The preamble is based on the Objectives Resolution, which was drafted and moved in the Constituent Assembly by Jawaharlal Nehru on 13 December 1946 and adopted by Constituent Assembly on 22 January 1947.
“It was, indeed, a way of life, which recognizes liberty, equality, and fraternity as the principles of life and which cannot be divorced from each other: Liberty cannot be divorced from equality; equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity. Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many. Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative. Without fraternity, liberty and equality could not become a natural course of things.” Ambedkar said about the preamble.
The preamble to the longest written constitution among any other nation in the world says:
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
After a couple of decades, while the kingdom of Sikkim that was established in 1642, Phuntsog Namgyal, the first Chogyal – a temporal and spiritual king, came from the Bhutia community. When the historic Tripartite Agreement was executed on 8th May 1973 between the then Chogyal of Sikkim, the leaders of the political parties representing people of Sikkim and Government of India, the framework for Sikkim as the 22nd state of India was laid. India prepared a constitution for Sikkim that was approved by its national assembly in 1974. The Namgyal dynasty ruled Sikkim until 1975, and in a special referendum held in 1975, more than 97 percent of the electorate voted for the merger of Sikkim with India. Sikkim became the 22nd state of India on May 16, 1975.
Sikkim is known and revered as the most peaceful state in northeastern India and perhaps within the Indian subcontinent as well. People are known to be communally peaceful and have a good sense of refraining from speaking out ill about religious beliefs and communities other than the self’s. It has been an innate trait of Sikkimese people, no matter the ethnicity or religious background to keep their opinions, especially hurtful ones, to themselves. People in Sikkim come together to celebrate all festivals, be they governed by Western traditional/religious beliefs or Oriental (pertaining to Asian and Gulf countries). Sikkimese have been seen to celebrate everything they’re exposed to, via friends, schoolmates, college mates, or co-workers. Apart from the ethnic cultural festivals, Sikkimese people are known to celebrate Holi, Diwali, Ramazan feasts, Christmas, Easter, and even Hanukkah in some cases, provided there is an exposure to the festival. It is a well known fact, that can be observed if one ever travels to Sikkim and chooses to stay and look for themselves, that Sikkimese people are one of the most tolerant (culturally/religiously or otherwise) people in India.
A paper published in the Bulletin of Tibetology, named Cultural Evolution of Sikkim: A Survey, by Dr. Yeshe Choeden sheds light to how Sikkim has culturally grown and in every step, has taken alien practices, be they cultural or religious, with wide open arms. The paper is paraphrased below:

“The population of Sikkim is composed mainly of Lepcha, Bhutias and Nepalis, who settled down in the land at different periods in history. Lepchas are said to be the earliest inhabitants of Sikkim. They were historically said to have been left to themselves until about the fifteenth century when the Tibetan influx from north started. These early immigrants from Tibet came to be known as Bhutias, through these Bhutias, people in Sikkim encountered with the Tibetan civilization. The Bhutias brought from the north the Tibetan culture, the Tibetan language, the lamaist Buddhism and a combination of pastoralism and semi-settled agricultural pattern. There were other ethnic groups, such as Nepalis, Limbus, Rais, Mangars, Gurungs and Tamangs who were also early inhabitants of Sikkim. Some of them were animists, some Buddhists and some Hindus. The Nepalis dressed differently, spoke different language and worshipped different religion.They remained a group apart, especially the upper castes like Brahmins and Chettris. But their mere distinctiveness need was not looked at as a factor of discord in the society. In fact, through them the people of Sikkim could gain the benefit of influence by Indian civilization .The coexistence among them the felling of kinship or belonging together developed the tradition of tolerance, adjustment and accommodation. Thus, despite the factors of dissimilarity, gradually developed in Sikkim a degree of historic and cultural unity and the common tradition, and it was further reinforced with Nepali language becoming the lingua franca of the sub-Himalayan region.”
The paper further discusses how Sikkimese people have also accepted western values and lifestyles:
“The development efforts and modernization brought about multidimensional transformation in Sikkim. The standards of living reflects in terms of per capita income production of primary as well as secondary goods, spread of health and education services widening of the network of communication generation of power, etc. have all shown significant increase. These transformations brought about great impact on the traditional social systems and cultures of Sikkim. One of the noticeable changes is seen in the life-style of the people. They could have higher standard of living not only due to development activities but also due to the liberal aid given by the Central Government. In fact there is air of affluence in the society. They have westernized in their style of living. They have changed their food habits as well, with the Chinese, the Indian and the western dishes quite popular nowadays. Some of the ladies still wear their traditional dresses but for males, their traditional dresses have become only ceremonial dresses. Not only their style of living and appearance but their whole attitude has undergone change due to spread of modern education and exposure through mass-media. So their socio-cultural behavior have also undergone change.
A.R Foning states: “Our boys have always topped and carried away prizes for the Beattles type quarters and band groups. In short, we have become and have converted ourselves into sort of quasi-Europeans”.” – via named Cultural Evolution of Sikkim: A Survey, by Dr. Yeshe Choeden, from repositories CAM-AC-UK, 2013
The above study, even being a decade old shows exactly how Sikkim has culturally evolved to be a state where “belonging together has developed a tradition of tolerance, adjustment and accommodation”, also, it is evident that Sikkimese people have always taken lifestyle choices from countries elsewhere, with modernization and also after the introduction of mass media, especially the internet people of Sikkim have seen to take into cultures from countries like USA, UK, France, Italy and South Korea, it can be seen by the way people are excited about food and culture that aren’t intrinsically Sikkimese.
In recent days there has been a subtle disharmony in the state which spawned from a few speeches that was targeted against Christians. India has seen communal disharmony in all of her evolutionary history, even till now there is an air of communal disharmony between religions, from the Gujarat riots, to Babri demolition, to Jamia University, to JNU troubles; there have been a lot of cases of communal and religious disharmony, which history has evidence, was mostly perpetuated from hate speeches. Fortunately Sikkimese culture doesn’t really let people sway away due to rhetoric and demagoguery, that being said, there have been incidents where people have been swayed.
The most recent troubles were stirred at the Hindu-Buddhist Sanatan Coordination Assembly held at South Sikkim. The ceremony was held at Krishna Pranami Mangaldham in Namphing, South Sikkim on Sunday 13th March in the presence of Yuvacharya Abhaydas Maharaj The speeches, primarily of Yuwa-Acharya Sri Abhaya Das Ji Maharaj associated with Kabir Philosophy, and former minister Tseten Tashi Bhutia, created a stir amongst not only the Christian communities but amid most Sikkimese people. The speeches that targeted Christian communities living in Sikkim were mostly received negatively.
While Acharya said things like:
“It hurts me looking at so many kids wearing red hats on 25th December at MG Marg, and it is not a thing to be applauded but a thing to bang our heads over and cry over”
“People are giving off flyers (realated to christianity) at temples where we worship, I am giving an open warning from this podium (where he made the speech), that Christians will run and won’t even set foot in the temple let alone give off flyers”
“If I have to die, I will but I will drive away these people (Christians) from the state of Sikkim”
Acharya also went on to question how Sikkim has let so many Churches be built in a land where Kirateshwar and Guru Padmasambhawa have their blessings. These were just a few of the bitter jabs taken against the Christians in the state, whereas Tseten Tashi Bhutia also jumped aboard the hate train and took shots against the Christians in the state, saying that they were behind the decrease of Hindus and Buddhists in the state. He went on to say that the future of Sikkim was in danger as the population of Hindus and Buddhists were in a state of steady decline since 1970s.
While there were outbursts all over the internet against the hateful speeches, All Sikkim Christian organization sent out a press release undersigned by their president Lanam Sereng, immediately after the speeches on 14th March that stated
“All Sikkim Christian Organization (ASCO) would like to appeal to all the members of the Christian community to very peacefully and prayerfully think over the grave matter of religious beliefs raised during the Hindu Baudha Sanatan Samanyan Sabha held at Krishna Parnami Mangaldham, Namphing, S Sikkim on Sunday 13th March 2022.We live in a secular country and have respect for all the people professing the faith of their choice.We are going to meet all the Christian groups in a few days to seriously deliberate in this matter in order to address our stand, keeping in view the religious peace and tranquility that we are enjoying in our State at the moment.In the meantime, I would kindly request everyone to refrain from making any comments which could create disharmony amongst us all, of different faiths, living here peacefully in Sikkim.”
The speeches set out massive outbursts among Sikkimese citizens of all religious backgrounds
Here are some of the comments made against the speeches:
“He (Acharya) made us believe that why Article 371 is so important to us and why the central party or the outside party will never win anything in Sikkim
He divided us by his speech and United us by his speech aswell
Please do visit again cause we were lacking that unity in Sikkim which was dormant for very long time Sukriya,” one person comments.
“I am born hindu who proudly celebrate diwali.. Dushhera n with the same pride decorate Christmas tree n celebrate. We have been doing these all ur lives n such hatred speech shall not stop us from doing so in future..let’s give each other space, respect and freedom to choose our own religion.. “ another comments.
“If he is a religious guru he can talk bout his own religion why is he talking against other religion this is a sign of the a starting war you shouldn’t be against others because Sikkim is a one of the most peaceful state of India. Sikkimese people aren’t foolish” another person adds. There are many more comments from Sikkimese citizens on the internet that show the Sikkimese sentiment of how people like to live in harmony and how Sikkim isn’t afraid of taking a stand. In the same development United Christian Welfare Society of Sikkim and All Sikkim Christian organization filed an FIR against Abhya Das Maharaj and Tseten Tashi for the public speeches that were hateful if not hurtful against the Christian community living in Sikkim.
Many political figures also took to the media and sent out press releases condemning the hate speeches made against Sikkimese Christians, figures like Political and Social activist and founder of 371F Passang Sherpa, Hamro Sikkim Party President Bhaichung Bhutia, Sikkim Republican Party President KB Rai, and the spokespersons ruling party Sikkim Krantikari Morcha all came ahead condemning the hateful speech made during the religious ceremony at Namphing.

“Hamro Sikkim condemns all hate speech made against our brothers and sisters of Christian faith in Sikkim. The people of Sikkim have always lived like one family and we should not let anyone divide us on lines of religion or community.” Bhaichung Bhutia stated.
“The comments made at Temi Namphing, was a really unfortunate incident in the history of Sikkim and Sikkimese political scenario. The way Abhay Das, without knowing the socio-political and socio-cultural situation in Sikkim, or taking into heed what the Indian constitution says about the freedom of religion, made those inciting and hateful comments, I personally condemn and oppose those comments,” Social activist and founder of 371F Passang Sherpa said.

He further added, “Sikkim is a state that is enveloped in sentiments of kinship, adjustment, and traditional and cultural tolerance, it is a state where there are people who follow different religions even in the same household and live in harmony. Ours is a harmonious state and I condemning the act, feel like whole of Sikkim does the same and hope that this kind of unfortunate incident that incites religious disharmony doesn’t ever happen in the future.”
SRP President KB Rai said, “The way Yuva Acharya Abhay Das made his speech, it wasn’t something that suited a religious personality. A distinguished pundit like him, and the way he spoke with hate, anger, and incitement in his words, they were not any indicators of him being a pundit.”
“I am an admirer of all religions, and I revere all religions, because religion is something that gives humans a tool to live virtuously, it is something that lets people differentiate between the body and the soul, and maybe people will think that I am speaking against a religious group or a committee but I am condemning the person, Abhay Das who shared such hateful speech. This speech is a stain marked on the same groups and committees by Abhay Das, of which he may be a part” he added.
He further added, “I want to appeal to Abhay Das ji that he apologise to all the Sikkimese religious sects for trying to incite communal hatred between religions through his speech. If he really is an Adhyatmic Guru, he should know that he made a mistake and that a person doesn’t become smaller by asking for forgiveness.”
“The SKM party and the present Sikkim government consider the statement made by Yuva Acharya Abhaydas Maharaj at the Hindu-Buddhist Coordination Meeting organized by Sikkim Sanatan Sangathan on March 13 at Namphing Shri Krishna Pranami Mangaldham in Timi Namphing of South Sikkim as unconstitutional, anti-spirit of Indian Constitution and disturbing religious harmony. The SKM party and the Sikkim government strongly condemn his statement” CP Sharma Spokesperson and Press Advisor to CM stated.

Further, Sharma stated, from the front of SKM party through a press release, “India is a secular nation and the constitution is its soul. The SKM Party is a nationalist party and does not support any statement that undermines the constitution and values ​​of the nation.”
“The establishment of our party is to unite the ethnically, religiously and socially divided Sikkimese society in a strong bond of mutual brotherhood, intimacy, social harmony and religious tolerance.” The release further stated.
“The SKM party and the government oppose any kind of divisive activities that try to create division between castes, religions and sects. The SKM party is a purely secular party. The SKM party/government, which is a staunch supporter of all religions and the Constitution of India, has always advocated for social harmony and religious freedom. and the government do not accept any activities, programs, party and personal /private statements/remarks against the secular constitution of the country,” the release further stated.
It is evident that Sikkim and all of its citizens, be they leaders or general public, do not approve of any communal disharmony, and condemn anyone who tries to incite them, and the way citizens came forward to defend the harmony in Sikkim was seen as a strong indicator that Sikkim really has a tradition of harmony, tolerance, adjustment, and approval.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button