After Arunachal, Congress concern over protection of identity in Sikkim

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SUJAL PRADHAN
Gangtok
9 Oct 2018

Soon after Congress in Arunachal Pradesh Nabam Tuki had underscored the importance of protecting the unique identity of Arunachal, on Monday All Indian Congress Committee secretary in charge of Sikkim Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarma said Congress was committed to protecting the special status of Sikkim and fighting for the rights and privileges of the Sikkimese people.
Observers said with the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 approaching, it could be an election strategy of Congress to underscore the importance of regional and local identities in the north-east where these were always an emotive issue. Such a strategy could also help Congress in forging electoral alliances with regional parties in the north-east for most of whom the question of identity was the uppermost. Tuki, for instance, emphasized that for protecting the identity of Arunachal the removal of BJP from power was important. With Assam and a few other states under its belt, BJP is on a strong wicket in the north-east.
“For now we will first try to address the problem like influx in the state and protection of the state's safeguarding article 371 F,” Debbarma said. Agreeing that Congress had, somewhere down the line, had some of its credibility to the people of Sikkim, he said: “I agree that there was no attempt made to address the local issues and try to win the hearts of the people. I want to assure that from now on we will work for the state of Sikkim and its people like never before.”
It was the Congress, he claimed, which had provided the constitutional guarantee in the form of Article 371 (F) to protect the interests of the three ethnic communities --- Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalese --- though he did not mention that this was in the wake of the controversial merger deal with the Indian union and the Chogyal had taken an active interest at that time to protect the interests of his subjects.
Debbarma also promised that the Congress would also work for restoration of lost Nepali seat in the Sikkim assembly. Congress fully supported the reservation of seats for the Sikkimese Nepali community in the Assembly and was committed to raising this issue in Parliament and restoring this political right of the Sikkimese Nepalis which was essential for strengthening the social fabric of the Sikkimese society. Debbarma said two weeks from now he would start his tour of different parts of the State.