The implementation of Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 barring the Tribal Area under Sixth Scheduled of the Constitution and States with ILP has ignited a sense of insecurity among the people of Sikkim. Yet, the fierce protest in the Parliament by our MPs and request of the state government to exempt Sikkim from the purview of CAA could garner just a verbal assurance by Home Minister Amit Shah and still could not find its place within the Act.
The state government and the ruling party seem content with verbal assurance, but the citizens are apprehensive because of the non-inclusion of Sikkimese concerns in the Act.
The Northeastern states, especially Assam, is asking for a blanket exemption, as only a few areas of Assam is covered by the Sixth Schedule. Tripura is seeking for complete exemption and Meghalaya is pushing hard for an Inner Line Permit. Arunachal, Nagaland and Mizoram already enjoy complete exemption as these states have an ILP system. Manipur implemented ILP and protected their territory from the implementation of CAA. Thus, Sikkim is the only Northeastern state happy with the verbal assurance of Home Minister and has refused to take any concrete steps to stop the implementation of CAA.
In the backdrop of Sikkim being already plagued by a high rate of influx, substantial growth of migrant workers and lack of documentation on the numbers of people entering Sikkim from outside, the demography of Sikkim is changing at an unbelievable rate. To top it all, the implementation of CAA has further developed a sense of anxiety and insecurity in the minds of the common Sikkimese.
We are all Indians, irrespective of where we come from. I am as Indian as a citizen of Rajasthan or someone who hails from Southern India. However, we have to understand that firstly, the people of Sikkim voted in the favour of India in the referendum during the time of the merger – that is a big statement in itself. Secondly, Article 14 and other such laws cannot be taken at face value. They are interpreted in various ways and as far as Sikkim is concerned, the mainland has been negligent – our people are not provided rights but only promised them. Laws are implemented without taking the consent of the stakeholders.
I have been protesting about the CAA since 2016. Until yesterday we welcomed everyone in the state – to live, study or work, except for certain restricted areas, but if the central government passes a law without thinking about the stakeholders, then we will be taken aback
To reach the vision of one India, the Centre must be concerned with the concerns of the smallest sections – you cannot solve big issues if you can’t even fix the smaller ones. Why are Sikkimese concerns not taken into priority?
Right now, the Union Home Minister’s verbal assurance on the matter of Sikkim’s exclusion from CAA may satisfy some, but until it is presented in written form and clearly defined under the law, we should not be satisfied. Verbal assurance does not have any legal grounds.
Therefore, at this juncture, it is pertinent to seek a permanent solution to this ever-increasing threat to the people of Sikkim. The CAA falls under the central list, not the state, so our government cannot do anything to stop the Act from being implemented if need be. We are in a sorry state. We cannot blame only one party – all political parties that have MLAs are responsible for taking up the matter of conveying an emergency assembly session implementing ILP and getting Sikkim listed under the states exempted from the Act. If they fail to do that then they can be labelled anti-Sikkimese, for not taking up the concerns of the state.
(By Passang Gyali Sherpa, a social and a political activist from Sikkim) The author can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org
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