Following a controversial advertisement Sikkim slammed the Delhi Government, which referred to the state as a ‘separate nation’ and clubbed it with Nepal and Bhutan. Sikkim was prompt against the blunder and demanded an unconditional apology from the Delhi Government, for hurting the national ethos of the state. This led to the immediate withdrawal of the advertisement and the suspension of a senior officer responsible for publishing the advertisement. However, it came to light that the officer published the ad following a Central Government document. As Sikkim celebrated it’s 45th statehood day on May 16, a mistake in an official document speaks volume of the ignorance existing in the system. Mumeninaz Zaman writes
The Delhi Government has put up an advertisement for recruitment of civil defence volunteers where it mentioned under the eligibility criteria that the applicants should be “Citizen of India or a subject of Sikkim or Bhutan or of Nepal and a resident of Delhi”. Taking sou moto cognizance of the matter, Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang took to social media expressing resentment and wrote, “the people of Sikkim are emotionally integrated with the nation since 1975. Our people even cannot think of such a mistake by a responsible Government. The people of Sikkim are the lover of democracy and amalgamated with the national ethos, purity of nationhood engraved in their heart. The ignorance or intensions are unpardonable.” Tamang further sought an apology from the Delhi Government.
This was followed by a letter written to the Chief Secretary of Delhi for the urgent withdrawal of the advertisement. Immediate action was taken and the Delhi Government has suspended a senior officer of the directorate of civil defence for publishing the advertisement. The ad episode has indeed opened up a new issue that is unfathomable. As reported in The Print the senior officer of the Directorate of Civil Defence (headquarters), Rahul Sudan who was suspended said that he relied on the Central Government’s document for publishing the ad which mentions Sikkim as an independent country. Following this several news report were published where it has been found that some of the government website, including the departments under the Ministry of Home Affairs have also identified Sikkim as a separate nation. This also includes government websites of Odisha, Assam and Directorate of Civil Defence & Home Guard.
It needs to be mentioned here that the Civil Defence Act, 1968, was first passed seven years before Sikkim became a part of India in 1975. A home ministry official later said, after Sikkim’s merger with India, a gazette notification was issued on September 8, 1975, for application of the Civil Defence Regulations, 1968, in Sikkim. “In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 9 of the Civil Defence Act 1968, (27 of 1968), the central government hereby directs that the Civil Defence Regulations, 1968 shall extend to and come into force in the state of Sikkim with effect on and from the 1st day of October 1975,” the home ministry notification signed by the then joint secretary C G Somiah said. The footnote of the Act also mentions the 1975 notification. However, official websites and documents of the Government of India say otherwise. While the Act was updated in 1975 to reflect Sikkim’s new status, the regulations issued in 1968 as part of the law was not and this stirred up a hornets’ nest. This ad stoked controversy and the Delhi government faced a backlash. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in a tweet said that Sikkim is an integral part of India and ‘such mistake won’t be tolerated’. While the opposition party blamed Kejriwal Government, the ruling AAP, hit out at the opposition by accusing the BJP and Congress leaders of doing “petty politics”, saying the advertisement followed MHA guidelines.
However, at a time when there has been tension simmering with the neighbouring countries such mistake would only worsen the situation. Pursuant to the ad, in a report by The Sikkim Chronicle, SKM Spokesperson Jacob Khaling was quoted as saying- “The incident, though intentional or unintentional was very unfortunate; the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said that this was a clerical error but we expect that an investigation will be carried out. Despite being intentional or unintentional this is a grave mistake which questions the identity of the people causing enemy forces to use this to their advantage by twisting emotions. Sikkim has been a part of India for 45 years, Sikkimese people are patriotic toward India, but incidents like these cause North-East people to feel like they’ll never be accepted as Indian.”
Recently, Sikkim celebrated it’s 45th Statehood Day on 16th May. The state surrounded by the Tibetan Plateaus in the north, the Kingdom of Bhutan in the east, the Kingdom of Nepal and the Indian state of West Bengal to the south is home to the world’s third highest peak Kanchenjunga, and attracts a large number of tourists from across the globe. From being an ecological hotspot that exhibits a diverse range of flora and fauna, Sikkim has also done well on the sanitation front and is India’s first fully organic state. The state topped among the northeastern states in per capita income with Rs 3.17 lakh. The state has garnered a range of titles which makes it distinct. Moreover, Sikkim’s effort in containing the coronavirus has been exemplary in the entire country. The Chief Minister further credited the people who were extremely disciplined in maintaining the region as COVID-19 free for a long time in the entire country until May 23 when it registered its first case.
If we look back at history Sikkim became the 22nd state of India by abolishing the monarchy and then merging with India. Subsequently, the Indian Parliament approved the Constitutional amendments and Sikkim became a full state of India. Nevertheless, it is despondent enough that even after 45 years the official documents portrays a different story. While the political parties blame each other for the blunder, the incident has indeed left a question mark on who is responsible for the discrepancies prevailing in the some of the prominent documents of the country that contempt the territorial integrity of the nation.