OP-ED: The othering of my own personal history – Amrit Sharma

The Othering of My Own Personal History
I chose not to react for a few days after seeing a much posted, long drawn out article
written by a once very close friend of mine. But silence is acceptance and there are
many things in the personal anecdotal diatribe that has been put out that completely
erases my personal history as well, so I thought it was fit to write a rejoinder. Small
things like these go on to be recorded as history so it is important to counteract false

If you read between the lines – the aforementioned article is about two main things –
the Old settlers were always Sikkimese and Sikkim always embraced them as such.
And secondly, they are just two percent of the population – why do ninety nine
percent of us have a problem with them the minority getting equal rights. I want to
debunk both those arguments.

The Othering of us
I grew up with the person in question but I don’t agree at all with this rosy picture he
paints of us all being Sikkimese since birth. We never treated them like the other – the
othering was always from their end – it started with small things – they would never
eat out from our tiffins in school, they would never come for our family weddings –
maybe out of their religious convictions- because those days we had no concept of
vegetarianism and also every Sikkimese function be it a marriage or death function at some point there was and is alcohol- and they were strict teetotallers during those days. So they othered us. Never invited us for any of their family functions nor came for any of ours. Nor did they integrate. The majority of them including the person writing the article never married a Sikkimese. They always wanted to marry someone from their ‘desh’ (country)- so it was always apparent that their ‘desh’ was not Sikkim. This ‘desh’ also always came up during our winter holidays, when most of us went to our ‘busties’ (village) , they always went to ‘desh’. Even before we talk of Citizenship and rights, we have to talk about a sense of belongingness – if Sikkim was never your ‘desh’ where is the belongingness?

The business community never fully integrated with Sikkim- never intermarried like how the rest of us Sikkimese have – if that had happened, this would never have come to be. All of us would have had Badas, Kakas, Mamas, Maijus and sundry other relatives from the community and we would have all stood up for your rights but unfortunately we don’t. So maybe it is a time for some introspection for the
community. Just living somewhere for x no. of years does not make you part of the social fabric. Integrating into a society makes you part of one. One small instance – growing up, we Nepalis never even had a temple in Gangtok (Thakubari was granted to the business communities by the Chogyal after repeated petitions – we Nepalis never petitioned the Durbar for any places of worship), we always went to Enchey Gumpa, called lamas for prayers, all children wore sungdis. Nepalis ritualised the use of Khadas for every important occasion, be it birth, death, weddings or religious functions. We integrated with our Bhutia Lepcha brothers and we borrowed from them and they did the same from us and together we created a culture that is unique and that separates us from our roots from where ever we might have come from. The business community has had no role to play in the creation of the cultural identity of Sikkimese and cannot now appropriate our social and cultural identity to suit their
means. They want to be Sikkimese just for financial gain. We the Sikkimese, chose to be Sikkimese because we chose the soil.

Citizenship comes at a Cost
The afore mentioned article talks about the issue of citizenship through an emotional
lens by providing personal anectodal history. I want to stick to facts – I personally,
come from a very old family in Sikkim and we have records and Durbar documents
going way back to 1800s but not all Nepali families had that. There were Nepalis who
had moved here in 1920s 30s and 40s and when the Sikkim Subjects regulations Act
was passed in 1961, there were Nepalis who still had land in Nepal or ties there but
since the condition for Sikkimese Citizenship was forgoing any Citizenship or
immovable property outside of Sikkim and since the population was so small- they
had to prove it. Outside of the old entrenched Nepali families, the rest had to show
cancelled land ‘parchas’ (records) – so who ever CHOSE to be Sikkimese had to
sacrifice whatever ties they had outside and no matter old or not – that is what makes
us Sikkimese – collectively we gave up whatever else we might have had to be
Sikkimese and our Chogyal at the point accepted that. There was no discrimination
amongst Nepalis who were invited by Durbar proclamations in the 1800s to set up
terraced fields and who went on to become Tesildars and Mondals, to Nepalis who
came much later. If you gave up your past to become Sikkimese, it was enough. I sent
our Citizenship Act to many of my friends globally and they all agreed that it was
probably the world’s most democratic Citizenship Act! Despite that if you did not
want to be citizens, you never integrated but now you claim to be Sikkimese and we
seemingly held you as one – that is just a testament of how tolerant we are as
Sikkimese and not a testament how Sikkim is in your blood.

Citizenship comes at a cost, you can’t hold ties to your roots and claim citizenship
and the benefits of that without forgoing the litmus test! You guys Chose to be Indian
while we Chose to be Sikkimese – you were not part of our struggle to be Indian, you
already were – so if our erstwhile Chogyal chose to ensure that our rights and
privileges were safeguarded within the Indian Constitution, I’m sorry those rights
were not safeguarded for you because you never chose to be his subjects in the first
place! Stop swaying us with sentiment, that we have in plenty. Let’s just talk facts

The article is written by Amrit Sharma and can be reached at

SC Bureau

Sikkim Chronicle is a unit of Yonika Infotainment Pvt. Limited. Sikkim’s first registered digital news platform which believes to provide right, reliable and credible news and information to the people of Sikkim and around. We have endeavored to appropriately credit the source of all intellectual property we share through this community.

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