Sikkim government has imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) after sporadic clashes broke out during a protest rally held by the Joint Action Committee on Saturday in Singtam town in Sikkim’s Gangtok district.
Violence broke out after some unidentified miscreants attacked JAC General Secretary Keshav Sapkota when he was trying to mobilise local JAC workers for the protest rally in the state capital against expansion of the definition of the ‘Sikkimese’ people in Section 10 (26AAA) of the Income Tax Act 1961 under the Finance Bill 2023 passed by Parliament recently.
The Singtam Police lodged two cases in this connection and nabbed three persons in this connection, Gangtok, Superintendent of Police (SP) Tenzing Loden Lepcha, said.
“We have lodged an FIR and a counter FIR by rival parties and arrested three persons based on the video recording in circulation on social media,” the SP said.
A member of the Singtam Taxi Drivers Association was also injured when he was attacked by JAC workers.
Apprehending the threat to the law and order situation, the Additional District Magistrate of Gangtok issued prohibitory orders for the entire Singtam Bazar area and within the periphery 200 m radius of Singtam Bazar.
After the violence, Former Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling and Sikkim BJP chief DR Thapa visited the Governor on Saturday. Chamling requested the Governor to look into the law and order situation in Sikkim.
Meanwhile, the Sikkim Ex-Naval Sailors’ Association and Sikkimese Society have condemned the incident. The civil groups also issued letters to the governor seeking to restore peace in the rule of law in the Himalayan state. Meanwhile, former footballer Bhaichung Bhutia also wrote a letter to the Superintendant of Police (SP) Gangtok Tenzing Loden Lepcha to identify the goons responsible for the alleged attacks. He also appealed to residents to maintain “peace and tranquility.”
Sapkota suffered injuries to the head, nose, and neck and was taken to Singtam District Hospital, where the attending doctors referred him to Central Referral Hospital.
“As of now, Sapkota, an ex-Navy serviceman, is in the ICU,” said Passang Sherpa, Vice-President of JAC. “Pawan Chamling visited the patient on Sunday afternoon followed by former footballer and President of Humro Sikkim Pary (HSP) Bhaichung Bhutia.”
On Saturday, Bhutia also held a protest. “This is a planned attack. We also don’t believe in the law and order of Sikkim anymore,” he added.
Gangtok SP Lepcha said, “JAC wanted to conduct a rally and we had given them permission to conduct it in Gangtok from Amdo Golai to DAC, but they insisted on organizing it in Singtam and just to avoid any untoward incident, we had deployed forces also. We received information at around 11.30 am about a verbal altercation between two parties which eventually turned into a physical altercation in which two people have sustained injuries. Police have received complaints from both parties.”
However, Passang Sherpa and Bhaichung Bhutia claimed the unrest was created by Sikkim Krantikari Morcha Party members, who were led by Suresh Tamang, who is the president of Singtam Nagar Panchayat. Sherpa claimed, “The protests broke out near the river bank. Many of our council members are also missing. All Opposition parties are all condemning the situation.”