Sikkim Opposition parties call for boycott of Independence day celebrations in the Himalayan state

Darjeeling, August 13, 2011: The opposition parties of Sikkim have given a call for boycott of Independence day celebrations in the Himalayan state protesting against a Bill tabled by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling in the Sikkim State Assembly on August 11. “It is a symbolic protest. We had given up our King and
Country in 1975 to join the largest democracy India and now this Black Bill has turned democracy into a mockery. The very democratic form of agitation launched by the Father of the Nation which led to India’s Independence has been strangled in Sikkim” alleged Biraj Adhikari, President, Sikkim National Peoples’ Party (SNPP.)

Incidentally the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim had merged with the Indian Union in 1975.Political outfits including the Congress, BJP, CPIM along with regional parties have decided to launch a unified movement against what they have dubbed the “Black Bill.”

Chief Minister Pawan Chamling who is also the Minister of Home Affairs, Government of Sikkim, tabled a Bill (Bill No. 10 of 2011) “The Sikkim Prevention and Control of Disturbance of Public Order Bill” on Thursday at the Sikkim Assembly to be discussed and passed on  August 26.

The Bills enlists a number of offences including drunken behavior, drug abuse, child labour, creating public nuisance as cognizable offence punishable by imprisonment and fine. However Section 3 of the Bill has sparked the controversy.

The Section states “Holding of procession, hunger strike or squatting or shouting of slogans or waving black flags or other such agitation methods, tendency or potentiality of promoting enmity  or hatred or disaffection between groups or sections or communities on grounds of religion, race or caste shall be deemed to be disturbance of public order.”

Disturbance of public order is a punishable offence to punished by imprisonment of five years and fine not less than Rs. 50,000/- In case of drug abuse the imprisonment will include an additional 6 months of imprisonment along with an additional fine of Rs. 1 Lakh.

The Bill is expected to sail through with all 32 seats held by the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF.) “With such Bills the ruling party has been managing to stifle democracy time and again while the Government of India abdicates its responsibility merely showing  dreams of democracy to the Sikkim public.” stated Adhikari.

The opposition parties feel that using this Bill the opposition voices  will be throttled in Sikkim. “We can’t even hold democratic protests in Sikkim anymore. It is worse than any feudal system. In 35 years democracy has been shooed out of Sikkim. There are two sets of laws, one for the ruling party and one for the opposition. Corruption is rampant with misappropriation of government funds which is used to buy voters. CAG reports talk of this disparity in funds while the Union Government remains a mere spectator. Sikkim elders are now stating that the King was better than this form of so called democracy handed down to us” alleged Adhikari.

The opposition parties are also contemplating seeking legal recourse against this Bill. “It is time the Government of India pulls up its socks otherwise peace will also vanish from Sikkim and it will become one of the trouble torn North East states.”

The Bill has sparked heavy criticism from various quarters. The social network sites are abuzz with comments. A comment on a social network site stated “The cycle continues, people never learn, Libya circa 1974….”
-Amitava Banerjee, Hindustan Times
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