Gangtok: Joint Action Council (JAC) is preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic May 8, 1973 Tripartite Agreement in Singtam, Sikkim. The Sikkim’s Tripartite Agreement, which was signed between the Indian Union, the last King of Sikkim, Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal, and representatives of political parties in Sikkim, laid the foundation for democracy and led to the former kingdom of Sikkim joining the Indian Union.
To commemorate the day, JAC has invited Sikkim Governor Lakshman Prasad Acharya as the chief guest while promising to send invitations to Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay as well as to every other political parties in the state. The JAC urged everyone to “come as a Sikkimese, keeping political affiliations aside.”
JAC has been protesting against the expansion of the definition of ‘Sikkimese’ under the amended Section 10 (26AAA) of Income Tax Act 1961, which was recently passed by the Indian Parliament through the Finance Act 2023. The amended definition includes old settlers who were domiciled in Sikkim before the merger date and their descendants eligible for income tax exemption.
JAC spokesperson Duk Nath Nepal stated that “It is almost accepted that the Sikkimese term has been diluted through the Finance Act 2023, even though the State government and Centre insist that the expansion is only for income tax purposes.” According to him, the 1973 Tripartite Agreement guarantees the protection of Sikkimese through Article 371F, the mini Constitution for Sikkim within the Indian Constitution.
JAC vice president Passang Sherpa added, “The 1973 tripartite agreement was historic for Sikkim. It was on this day that the Sikkimese got an opportunity to take part in the policy decision-making process and thus, democracy was ushered in Sikkim. The tripartite agreement promised the protection of the distinct identity of Sikkimese and who the Sikkimese are have also been clearly defined and protected under Article 371F. However, the Finance Act 2023 has added a new group of citizens in this definition, distorting our identity.”
Apart from the unauthorized April 8 gathering in Singtam, the JAC has received authorization from the administration and police to conduct the event on May 8 in Singtam. During the previous gathering, the JAC was criticized for not taking proper authorization. However, this time they have obtained permission from the police who have assured them of event security. On April 8, the rally couldn’t proceed as a mob attacked JAC members, despite police presence, resulting in severe assault on JAC general secretary Keshav Sapokta.
The celebration on May 8th will be a reminder to “the 140 crore Indians about the solemn promise made by India to protect the distinct identity of Sikkimese, as recorded in Article 371F, the sequel of the May 8, 1973 tripartite agreement,” according to JAC vice presidents Duk Nath Nepal and Passang Sherpa. Additionally, JAC will write to all the Chief Ministers of different States and appeal to them to honor the promise made by India while merging Sikkim with India.
Also Read: A Comprehensive History of Sikkim
Gangtokian Web Team, 01/05/23