Indigenous groups in Sikkim on Sunday asked the government to compile a National Register of Citizens to curb the “influx of illegal migrants”, PTI reported.
The groups, which addressed a press conference in Gangtok, also demanded strict implementation of Article 371F that was inserted into the Constitution in 1975, when Sikkim joined the Indian Union, Time8 reported. The law grants Sikkimese people special rights and privileges.
The state shares a border with China, Nepal and Bhutan. “The need of the hour is to check the ever-growing and uncontrolled influx,” said Tashi Lhamu Lepcha, general secretary of the Sikkim Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association. “The National Register of Citizens exercise should be carried out in Sikkim as there are already thousands of people with dubious citizenship on record.”
The groups also demanded that the government thwart attempts to change the composition in the 32-seat state Assembly, PTI reported. Phigu Tshering Bhutia, secretary of the Bhutia Lepcha Protection Force, said: “The existing proportion of the 12 Bhutia-Lepcha seats in the 32 member Sikkim Assembly is 37.5%. We insist that status quo be maintained.”
The Sikkimese government, however, has not yet initiated any action on the matter. “Some organisations of Sikkim have also been demanding the introduction of Inner Line Permits in the state,” said Home Department’s Special Secretary Pratap Pradhan. “Till today, the government of Sikkim has no plan to introduce ILP in the state. 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.”
Inner Line Permits are travel documents issued by the government that allow Indian citizens to travel to sensitive areas for a short time. At present, such documents are issued for travel to some parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
NRC in Assam
The groups’ demands follow the publication of the final draft of the register in Assam. The exercise was launched in the state 2015, with 3.29 crore people applying to get their name on it. It has seen several controversies, including allegations of bias against certain communities.
The stated aim of the counting exercise is to separate genuine Indian citizens from those the government calls “illegal migrants”. According to the terms of the exercise, anyone who cannot prove that they or their ancestors had entered Assam before midnight on March 24, 1971, will be declared a foreigner.
The standard operating procedure for disposing of claims and objections to the register was unveiled last week, more than a month after the filing process began.