Society and Identity
The Sikkim Subjects Regulation of 1961, passed when Sikkim was still a sovereign kingdom, became the basis to define a ‘local’ identification, giving preferential access to land, livelihoods and resources—in particular, public employment and fiscal concessions—after Sikkim’s accession to the Indian Union in 1975. Consequently, today, all Sikkim Subjects are Indian citizens but all Indian citizens residing in Sikkim are not Sikkim Subjects.
Sikkim Subjects include Bhutias, Lepchas and Sikkimese-Nepali who were recognized as such in 1961 based on their ethnicity, their ‘old’ settlement in Sikkim for some—at least fifteen years preceding the promulgation—or their indigeneity for others. The payment of house tax (Nep. Dhuri khazana) and employment under the Sikkim Darbar prior to 1961 were also criteria to obtain Sikkim Subject status.
The granting of the Certificate of Identification and of a larger share of state benefits only to Sikkim Subject certificate holders after 1975 provided to a special bound to the territory the capacity to give access to a higher level of membership in the state of Sikkim. The differentiation between ‘native’ and ‘settlers’ as the basis of political identities (Mamdani 2005) have consequently taken a central place in the debate over the construction of a common political space.
Here, India’s experiment of institutionalizing ethno-territoriality in North East India under Autonomous District Councils (ADCS) as defined in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution provides a background framework to understand the specific way ethno-territoriality has been normalized as the post-colonial norm for self-governance in India.