North East

Indigenous tribal bodies in Sikkim demand National Register of Citizens

New Delhi, November 11: Various ethnic bodies of Sikkim have demanded that a National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Inner Line Permits (ILPs) be introduced in the state to curb the menace of influx, which according to them is posing a threat to their identity.
“The need of the hour is to check the ever-growing and uncontrolled influx. The National Register of Citizens exercise should be carried out in Sikkim as there are already thousands of people with dubious citizenship on record,” says Tashi Lhamu Lepcha, general secretary of Sikkim Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association (SILTA).
Accusing the Sikkim government of taking a casual approach that led to the “phenomenal changes in the state’s demographic composition”, Tseten Tashi Bhutia, convenor of Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLA), claims Sikkim has become a soft ground for illegal migrants from neighbouring countries.
The tiny Himalayan state shares international borders with China in the north, Nepal in the west and Bhutan in the east. It shares its southern boundary with West Bengal and is located close to the country’s Siliguri Corridor near Bangladesh. “The rise of influx has certainly added an extra burden on our land and economy. It has become absolutely necessary to restore and implement Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in Sikkim to safeguard the interest of the people of the state,” says Bhutia.
The state government, however, has said that as of now, it has no plans to introduce ILP and also no decision has been taken on NRC. “Some organisations of Sikkim have been demanding the introduction of ILP in the state. Till today, the government of Sikkim has no plan to introduce ILP in the state,” Pratap Pradhan, Special Secretary (Home) told PTI.
“After the NRC episode in Assam, the Sikkim government has received petitions from many organisations for NRC in Sikkim. The government has not taken any decision regarding this,” he said. The ILP is an official document issued by the Centre to allow inward travel of a citizen into certain areas for a limited period. At present, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram are the three states in the Northeast where the ILP is in force.
According to Tshering Wangchuk Lepcha, general secretary of Nationalist Sikkim United Organisation (NSUO), Sikkim has off late, turned into a socio-political and an economic dustbin in all manners. “If the influx continuously increases, then it may affect culture and heritage, socio-economic and demographic pattern of local tribes as well as pose a threat to their identity,” he says.
Phigu Tshering Bhutia, secretary of Bhutia Lepcha Protection Force (BLPF), feels the existing Bhutia-Lepcha seat composition of 37.5% in the legislative assembly should not be disturbed. He alleges that tactical efforts are being made by the Pawan Kumar Chambling-led government to reduce the seats further down to 30% as it has proposed to increase the assembly seats from 32 to 40 seats.
“The existing proportion of the 12 Bhutia-Lepcha seats in the 32- member Sikkim Assembly is 37.5 per cent. We thoroughly insist that status quo of 37.5 per cent should be maintained,” he says. After the merger of Sikkim with the Indian Union as the 22nd state in 1975, the assembly had 16 seats reserved for Sikkimese of Bhutia-Lepcha origin and 16 for Sikkimese of Nepali origin.
In 1980, all the 16 seats reserved for Sikkimese of Nepali origin were eradicated keeping only 2 seats for Scheduled Caste (SC) as reserved seats while reducing the number of the 16 Bhutia-Lepcha seats to 12. (PTI)