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Wednesday, Aug 05, 2020 13:15 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Aug 05, 2020 07:45 [IST]

One year after repeal of Article 370-Article 371Fin Sikkim stands strong

NIRMALYA BANERJEE
August 5, 2020, marks one year of abrogation of article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. One year ago, there was much apprehension in Sikkim that if article 370 went article 371F would not be left untouched either. Now after a year there is no room for such misgivings; there has been no change in the status of 371F.
In fact, in the entire north-east region there are several such constitutional provisions in force like article 370 which accorded special status to the people of Kashmir. Provisions like article 370 were mostly part of the condition for merger of these territories with India after Independence.
The north-east region and Jammu and Kashmir are not at par, however, and the reasons for which special status had been accorded to some communities living in the north-east region could not have been the same as those for which the same had been accorded to the people of Kashmir valley. Article 371A, for instance, was drawn up to give sufficient autonomy to the people of Nagaland to protect their society and culture.
For, these communities in the north-east are small, predominantly tribal ones and differing much from the mainstream of Indian society in their customs and practices. In Kashmir, however, people belong to the mainstream Indian society and the majority of them are without tribal traits.
Expectedly, though criticized vehemently in different quarters, the repeal of article 370 has brought some tangible benefits, too, in the lives of people of Kashmir. According to observers, abrogation of the article together with article 35A have opened up new possibilities and opportunities for refugees from West Pakistan who are now being treated as equal citizens. Women of Kashmir would no longer be deprived of their property rights if they are married to an outsider.
Provisions like only a permanent resident in the State could acquire land was acting as a brake on development. Article 35A of the Constitution which empowered the State legislature to decide who a permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir was and give him the right to own and buy property and benefits in employment and scholarship have also been repealed along with Article 370. Several noble provisions of the Indian legal system could not be applied to Jammu and Kashmir because of article 370, limiting the powers of Parliament to make laws relating to Jammu and Kashmir. Legal provisions for prevention of child marriage, for instance, could not be extended to Kashmir because of the article, observers point out.
Article 371F is not comparable with article 370, neither is the Sikkim situation comparable with the situation in Kashmir. Article 371F is meant primarily for protection of the Sikkim Subjects among whom are small tribal communities like Bhutias and Lepchas as well as old Nepali settlers. Here, for instance, there is need for a provision to protect the land belonging to the small communities.
Among all the clauses of article 371F the one that sounds most significant reads: “all laws in force immediately before the appointed day in the territories comprised in the State of Sikkim or any part thereof shall continue to be in force therein until amended or repealed by a competent Legislature or other competent authority.” This gives constitutional protection to the Sikkim Subject Regulation that the Chogyal had framed for his people apprehending that they could be swamped by influx after the merger with India that happened in 1975.
Another important constitutional provision ensuring special status to a geographical area is article 371A, meant for Nagaland, enabling the Nagas to protect their religious and social practices, customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice and ownership and transfer of land and its resources. Nagas, again, are a small community with unique social and cultural practices.
Article 371A, too, has not been affected by abrogation of article 370; though some of the provisions of the Framework Agreement with the NSCN(IM) like a separate flag and a separate constitution for the Nagas have not been finally accepted by the Centre.
This has left a section of the Naga underground groups upset, there are reports that some important leaders of the NSCN(IM) have left for China. But, provisions of article 371 A are again sufficiently enabling and there are indications that an influential section of the undergrounds in Nagaland may finally accept a settlement with Delhi.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi