During the height of demonetisation drive, Sikkimese people faced a shortage of currency due to the unavailability of new denominations due to RBI restrictions. For the Government of Sikkim, this step constituted a major breach of special provisions and a step towards the “nationalisation” of its most important banking institution with its legacy from the erstwhile Kingdom of Sikkim.

Demonetisation in Sikkim is well worth recording, for its impact on Sikkimese cultural communities and the state’s otherwise largely rural–agrarian economy which differs vastly from the experiences of rest of the country. The impact of demonetisation bears a trajectory of Sikkim’s unique position in the Indian Union after Sikkim’s “absorption” in 1975 as the 22-constituent state with the grant of “autonomy” envisaged under Article 371F of the Indian Constitution.

Although, the rulers of the land, the Chogyals (Dharma Raja) of the Namgyal Dynasty, lost Sikkim as a political entity, but its royal decrees and proclamation command perception of authority and veneration even to this day. Consequently, the autonomy question that Sikkim faces is mediated, incorporated and appropriated by India’s constitutional machination where Sikkim’s law—legal or customary—under the Chogyals, often bracketed as “old laws,” govern’s and regulates Sikkimese cultural communities to this day.

The application of Indian law in Sikkim is, therefore, a subject of verification, in that if such similar laws (in relation to other parts of India) exist in Sikkim’s “old law” clause, so at this juncture “old laws” override national legislations in favour of sound implementation of “old laws” within the territory of Sikkim. In other words, Article 371F of the Indian Constitution permits for the perseverance in force any Sikkimese laws that were in operation prior to Sikkim’s absorption in the Indian Union, unless amended or repealed by a competent authority.  The extent of autonomy that Sikkim enjoys, concurrently, enables the state to maintain the traditions of erstwhile theocratic subjectivities and the subjectivities of a modern nation state.

What is of utmost importance in Sikkim’s case is the story of the unique relationship between Sikkim and the centre, highlighting facets of Indian nationhood which are different from the experiences of homogenous European nation states. The aforementioned aspect of relations between Sikkim and the centre is premised on autonomy (cultural, economical and political) granted to numerous cultural communities within the respective zones of habitation in parts of the north-eastern states of India. Read more from epw.in…

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