Sikkim watched with interest and trepidation as the drama to remove Article 370 played out in the national capital . It is to be remembered that it was as recently as 1975 that the Himalayan protectorate, known as ‘Belgium of the East’ was annexed or ‘merged’ with India and assurance was given to maintain the Himalayan Kingdom’s integrity via article 371 (F).
Opposition parties in Sikkim on Tuesday sought an assurance from the Centre that the state’s special status enshrined under the Article 371(F) will not be disturbed following the revoking of provisions of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
The ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha leaders, however, refused to comment on this issue.
Opposition Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) and Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) were of the view that the Art 371(F) should not be tinkered with as the situation in the two states are different.
Contrary to prevalence of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir since 1947, Sikkim has been a peaceful state ever since it became a part of the Indian union in 1975, senior SDF leader K T Gyaltsen said.
“The Article 371(F) is there to stay forever as the integration of Sikkim with the Union of India is final and irrevocable,” said Gyaltsen, who was the speaker of Sikkim Assembly from 2009 to 2014.
The senior SDF leader, however, demanded an assurance from the Centre on the sanctity of Article 371F to soothe nerves of the people who, he said, are anxious after hearing the news of abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A.
Under the The Art 371(F), “the Governor shall have special responsibility for peace and for an equitable arrangement for ensuring the social and economic advancement of different sections of the population of Sikkim… and the Governor of Sikkim shall, subject to such directions as the President may, from time to time, deem fit to issue, act in his discretion”.
There is another provision by which “neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall have jurisdiction in respect of any dispute or other matter arising out of any treaty, agreement, engagement or other similar instrument relating to Sikkim….” There has been a sense of unease among the people of Sikkim ever since the news of abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir came and it can be addressed only by an assurance from the central government, HSP spokesperson Biraj Adhikari told PTI.
“The special status accorded to us are very different from that in Jammu & Kashmir,” he said.
While the Art 370 and 35A applicable to Jammu and Kashmir were temporary provisions, the Art 371(F) which accords special status to Sikkim is a permanent feature, the HSP spokesperson claimed.