After days of protest across Sikkim, the state government has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court's for rectification of the court's observation that Sikkimese Nepalis were people of foreign origin. The protesters had set a deadline of seven days for the state government to act.
The main opposition party, Pawan Kumar Chamling's Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), has called for a 48-hour bandh starting today. Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang has also called for an emergency session of the Assembly on February 9.
Nepalis are the majority community of Sikkim, apart from Lepchas and Bhutias.
Clashes broke out between ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) and opposition SDF cadres in Namchi this morning.
SKM is celebrating its 11th foundation day today, amid the Sikkim Bandh call. Their party cadres were urging shopkeepers to open shops, even though places like Namchi and Jorethang in South Sikkim are observing the shutdown.
Stone were thrown at SDF's party office after they called for the Sikkim Bandh on February 4 and 5. The party has alleged that those pelting stones on party workers and breaking windows of the party office are from the SKM.
There seems to be mixed responses to the bandh call. While rural Sikkim is shut, shops are being opened in the urban areas.
Meanwhile, senior SKM leaders and ministers were seen forcing shop owners to open shops.
Elsewhere, across the state, SKM is celebrating its 11th foundation day at the constituency level. There is no state level celebration.
Sikkim Police have deployed one platoon each of police force in all six districts. Two platoons have been deployed in Gangtok, including an all women platoon, along with 15 check post personnel.
On January 13, while delivering its verdict on the petition filed by Association of Old Settlers of Sikkim (AOSS), demanding exemption of income tax for the old settlers who had settled in Sikkim before its merger with India on April 26, 1975, the top court had observed that Sikkimese Nepalis were people of foreign origin. The Supreme Court also exempted old settlers of Indian origin from paying income tax.
In its judgement, the Supreme Court held that the benefit of tax exemption provided in Section 10 (26AAA) of Income Tax Act 1961 shall be extended to all Indian citizens domiciled in Sikkim on or before the merger date of April 26, 1975.
The top court added that under the Sikkim Income Tax Manual, 1948, "all persons engaged in business were subjected to tax irrespective of their origin. Therefore, there was no difference made out between the original inhabitants of Sikkim, namely, the Bhutia-Lepchas, and the persons of foreign origin settled in Sikkim like the Nepalis, or persons of Indian origin who had settled down in Sikkim generations back."
The petitioners had argued that migrants from other countries or erstwhile kingdoms like "Nepalese migrants", who "migrated to and settled in Sikkim at the same time or even after migrants/settlers of Indian origin", were benefiting from Section 10(26AAA) of the IT Act, 1961, "while arbitrarily excluding settlers of Indian origin such as the petitioners herein".
On February 2, state Health Minister Mani Kumar Sharma resigned in protest against the government's failure to respond to the court's observation.
In a letter to the Chief Minister, Mr Sharma said that the "state government has not taken the sentiments of Sikkimese people seriously". "I feel it is not necessary to remain in the state cabinet further," he said.
The Additional Advocate General Sudesh Joshi had also resigned after allegations of not briefing the top court adequately about the distinction between the Sikkimese Nepali population and other old settlers, which had led to the observation. Mr Joshi denied the allegations.