Lal Bahadur Basnett and Section 124-(A) of Indian Penal Code


Late Lal Bahadur Basnet was born on 17th December 1926 at Nazitam, Sang in East Sikkim. Born to Lieutenant (Honorary) Prem Bahadur Basnett and Narbada Devi, Lal Bahadur Basnett is an enigmatic personality of Sikkimese politics. At the age of 4, Late Basnett, along with his parents, left Sikkim for Dehradun (then United Provinces now the Capital of Uttarakhand) and returned to his native land only after 15 years. He got his basic education at Dehradun and went to Ludhiana and admitted to Punjab University for his graduation. After accomplishing his Graduation, in 1945, he went to United Services Pre-Cadet College Belgaum.  He was court-martial from the Army due to his direct and open letter to a High ranking Army Officer. In his letter he stated about “the dissatisfaction prevailing in 2/5 Gurkha Rifles”, which was not engrossed by other high ranking Officers. He was sent for a rigorous three months imprisonment but, later released after spending one and a half months in the jail. After resigning from the Indian Army, he went to Pokhara (Nepal) and served as a school teacher.
He sat for the Sikkim’s first Civil Service Competitive Examinations and qualified the same and was appointed as a Magistrate in 1961. However, within a short period he resigned from the bureaucracy and joined Sikkim National Congress, a political party headed by L.D Kazi and was entrusted with the charge of Joint Secretary. His ideas of democracy and egalitarianism could not stop there.
In 1966, he published series of three articles on the topic of Democracy in Sikkim (Sikkim ma Prajatantra) which ultimately led to the portrayal of Late Basnett as an anti-national. On 10th September 1966, the Joint Secretary of Sikkim National Congress was arrested on a non-bail able warrant for having committed offences of sedition under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.[i] According to Basnett:
The arrest had been occasioned by a series of three articles entitled “Democracy in Sikkim”, published in NOW, a Calcutta Weekly, and a letter written to the Editor, “Hindustan Standard” a Calcutta Daily, on the sensitive subject of Sikkim’s National Anthem[ii].
           According to the reports of Kanchenjunga:
It has come to know that Mr. Basnett had in certain journals and newspaper in Calcutta written articles which have been said to be against the interest of Sikkim. He was arrested under Indian Penal Code Section 124A on the charges of Rajdroha[iii].
It appears that the accused and the General Secretary of Sikkim National Congress had written nothing sensational against the National Anthem of the Kingdom. He had simply tried to draw the attention of the Indian intelligentsia regarding the existing political situation of the Kingdom. An extract of his article is reproduced here:
Now, the ruling house- the Sikkim Durbar- had no intentions to part with its powers and prerogatives which a democratic government would necessarily entail. It restored to the time honoured political weapon of divide and rule....The Sikkim Durbar assiduously applied itself to sowing the seeds of discord among the three communities by playing up the probability of the tyranny of the majority over the minority communities[iv].
In another issue, he continued to criticize the Sikkim Durbar for waiting for an opportunity to impose absolutism in the Kingdom. Mr. Basnett wrote:
The Sikkim Durbar has almost reached the point where its absolute rule has become a glaring fact....So, with absolutism in the saddle, Sikkim continues on the dizzy path of eventual chaos[v].

The only matter that the Durbar had to criticize the writings mentioned above was about the existence of absolutism in the Kingdom, which could be refuted in a usual manner by placing the example of the Executive Council of 1958. However, the arrest of Mr. Basnett gives a clear sketch that how  Sikkim Durbar was working on the “democratization” of the country where a single word against the palace was considered as an act of insubordination.

The lone News based journal Kanchenjunga published the event in the news story with the title ‘National Congress Secretary Arrested’ that too was in an equidistant manner between the democratic and autocratic juxtaposition. It writes
“....it would be enough to say that in the history of Sikkim, this is the first case relating to Section 124(A) or treason[vi].
After spending 48 hours in the police custody, Mr. Basnett was taken before the Chief Magistrate on 12th September 1966, and he was released on bail of Rs 100,000.[vii] On 10th April 1967, after the results of Third General Elections Mr. Basnett was acquitted from the charge of treason.

Due to his deviating political views with L.D Kazi he resigned from the Sikkim National Congress and founded Sikkim Janata Party. Though, the party had never been active in the political sphere of Sikkim but, the demands made by Late Basnett and his party cannot be disregarded. After his victory in the election of 1979, he was elected as the Deputy Speaker of Sikkim Legislative Assembly.




[i] Basnett, Lal Bahadur,  (1974) Sikkim A short political history, p 129
[ii] ibid
[iii] Kanchenjunga Vol.6, No.2-3-4, 15th September 1966 pp36, 48/49
[iv] Basnett, Lal Bahadur, ‘Democracy in Sikkim’(Part I) Now, 29th April 1966, Calcutta,p10
[v] Basnett, Lal Bahadur, ‘Democracy in Sikkim’(Part I) Now, 20th May 1966, Calcutta,p9
[vi] Kanchenjunga Vol.6, No.2-3-4, 15th September 1966 pp36, 48/49
[vii]
Basnett (1974) op cit p130

The political void of early 60’s and letter of Late Kazini Eliza Maria to Late Brihaspati Parsai

The early 60’s of the last century can be considered as the concluding segment of the tug of war that was prevalent between the political parties of Sikkim and the Sikkim Durbar. It can be articulated that, the period had accurately witnessed “King can do no wrong” as far as the Sikkimese administration was concerned. The Executive Councillors had served for seven years without any break. However, as per the provision, there had to be an election in 1962; but, was postponed for an indefinite period due to the “Chinese encroachments”. From the study it appears that, there was no political party except the Sikkim National Congress of Kazi Lhendup Dorjee which repeatedly clamoured for the political reforms. The political situation of the erstwhile Himalayan Kingdom was thence standing on the edge which is evident from the reports of Kanchenjunga. The monthly Nepali news based journal states:

“…The Chogyal had in accordance to the advice rendered by different political parties, said that political reforms will be carried out or else like 1958’s law of election will be conducted....while looking at the demands of the political parties, all the parties are unanimous in one matter of election which was to be conducted in 1961 and was not be postponed further.....but, when it comes to the formation of the Council, rules regulating election, administration etc., the parties are not unanimous. If the ruler and the different parties do not listen to each other this critical situation will definitely harm the multi-faceted progress of the country” [i]


Though, Kanchenjunga [ii] blamed Sikkim National Congress along with other political parties for maintaining silence against the introduction of reservation on the basis of caste and race, it appears that, the Sikkim National Congress had made some clatters. But, as usual their opposition went unheard as the other two parties namely Sikkim National Party and Sikkim State Congress remained hushed and muted and were busy in proving them as  good and obedient parties to the Durbar.

The photograph attached with this post is a letter from Kazini Eliza Maria of Chakhung to late Mr. Brihaspati Parsai of Namli village East Sikkim. The latter was one of the founding members of Sikkim State Congress founded in December 1947 with a purpose of liquidating feudalism from the very root of Sikkim. It is evident from the letter that late Brihaspati Parsai had invited the Kazi couple for the marriage of their son to his residence at Namli village. However, the Kazini was unable to make her presence with her husband due to ‘ridiculous attitude of Sikkim Durbar’. It is interesting to note that the letter was dispatched from Chakhung House Kalimpong; the unofficial headquarter of Sikkim National Congress. It indicates that the entry of the Kazi couple to Sikkim was banned at that juncture for some unknown reasons and she is hopeful to meet her relations in Sikkim after the riddance of “nonsense”.  

I am quite sure that the Kazi couple was not allowed in getting into Sikkim after the publication of Bulletin No.2 of 26th January 1972 through which the Sikkim National Congress had a mocking criticism against the Chogyal and the Sikkimese administration. A line published in Bulletin No.2 of the Sikkim National Congress says:

“It should always be borne in mind that there can be no King without people, but conversely there are many countries today which have people without Kings”.[iii]
 
Document acquired from Mr. N.B. Parsai of Namin village East Sikkim
The line quoted above from Bulletin No. 2 was more than adequate to get exiled in a monarchical set up. However, it materializes that the earlier banishment, indicated in this letter was certainly for raising the voices of the majority, where the Kazi probably was reluctant to accept the Durbar diversion of “divide and rule”. Probably he could sniff the tang of prejudice in the approaches of the palace and remained unbending with his democratic ethos and in all probabilities his democratic values were responsible for ‘ridiculous attitude of Sikkim Durbar’.





[i] Kanchenjunga, Vol.6 No.26 15th November 1965 Editorial page of the Journal
[ii] Kanchenjunga  Vol.6, No.9 15th January 1966 pp120-121
[iii] Kazi, L.D. Sikkim at the Crossroads’, (A Party Bulletin) Published by Sikkim National Congress, Bulletin No.2/1972, 26th January 1972, Gangtok p2

Tax receipt bearing seal of a Zamindar

Akin to any other feudal government, the Zamindars or the Lords of an estate in Sikkim had enormous power to enjoy. Their important duties include collection of taxes (both Land and House Taxes) from the peasants and also had a right of litigation at their Courts thence designated as Adda Courts. It is worth to mention that some of the Zamindars had seals in their name that manifests the unconcealed position of Zamindars in the feudal organization of Sikkim.
The picture of a tax receipt posted with this post belongs to a peasant named Dalbir Limboo of Rateypani Estate in South Sikkim which was issued to him by his village Mandal Dorjey Bomjan. According to the receipt, a cash payment of Rs 13/- was made by Dalbir Limboo as land tax to his Mandal in 1973 which is a bit confusing. However, if one has to examine the fonts used by the printing press (Gorkha Press Darjeeling) one can be convinced that the receipt belongs to the first quarter of 20th century. Further, the receipt has mentioned some other taxes like Madadi, Satsukey, Roadsesh, and Gaddhi which were eliminated immediately after the Second World War. Therefore, it is apparent that the tax receipt belongs to AD 1916 and the year mentioned as 1973 is Vikramasamvat era which is still in practice in neighbouring Nepal.
This tax receipt belongs to Mr. H.B. Subba of Chota Singtam, East Sikkim
The seal bearing a name of the Zamindar as Shree Hiralal is the distinguishing feature of this receipt. Stamped in Devanagari (Nepali) the name seems to be prominent as it also bears a figure of a half moon and a star on the both ends of the name. Use of such icons along with their names was in vogue among the exalted Nepalese Zamindars. We are not sure about the usage of such seals by other Zamindars in the Kingdom of Sikkim. However, the use of a seal that bears the name of self indicates least concerned attitude of the Zamindars towards the King and the peasants of the Kingdom. 

Mandals as the boosters of peasants' resistance in Feudal Sikkim


The Mandals or the village heads played a vital role in igniting the idea of resistance among the slumbered conscience of the Sikkimese peasantry. They were appointed by the Kazis or in some cases by the Mukhtiyars. Their machinery role was to work as a village headman and to collect taxes from the peasants of their respective villages. A peasant had to deposit his taxes in time, which included house tax and land tax known as Dhurikhajana and Jamin Khajana. If he fails to pay his taxes on time, he would be given a chance to pay his taxes the following year. But, during his payment the peasant had to pay his tax with a huge interest.However, some provisions were maintained by the Kingdom to rebate interests of the past year’s dues if a peasant made a full payment to his landlord. 25% of reimbursements were to be made by the landlords to the peasants. But, it appears that the feudal officials never implemented these provisions in a sincere manner. The Mandals had to issue a receipt confirming the payment of land tax and house tax to the peasant. Counterfoils of such receipts would be recorded in a register of demand and collection.
 Document written with pen is a tax receipt of the year 1929 of Late Ravilal Pyakurel of Tareythang Busty East Sikkim, Date of payment of Jaminkhazana 8th March 1930. Document written with pencil is tax receipt of Late Man Bahadur Limboo of Rabitar Namchi, Date of payment of Zamin Khajana 29th December 1941. Both the documents bear signatures of their respective Mandals.
Such receipts were mostly written with pencils which bore the Mandal’s signature. If the Mandal had any grudge against the peasants, they would issue a wrong receipt taking advantage of the illiteracy of the latter.This would lead to a big trouble for the peasants as whatever they earned had to be deposited as land tax. More pathetically, if the amount of tax happened to be registered wrongly, they had no option to appeal. There were several such cases in the various villages of feudalistic Sikkim. A Mandal named Chatur Singh Rai of Assam Lingzey had made such false entry against one Dal Dhoj Rai of his village. The victim made an appeal to Gyaltsen Kazi, the landlord of his village but his appeal remained unheard to the authority. In frustration, the victim openly challenged his Mandal during a feast at the village for this act of “disobedience” Dal Dhoj Rai had to pay Rs. 25/- as fine to the Mandal. Keeping aside the outcome of the outburst of anger, it is now evident that the hidden transcript of the Sikkimese peasantry was taking a shape of a full throated expression.
The Mandals also had the litigation rights and were appointed to provide justice to the needy in the village. But, most of the peasants today believe that their verdict was not satisfying for them as most of the Mandals spoke languages of the higher officials. A notice issued by a Mandal Brihaspati Upadhyay of Tareythang village in East Sikkim to one peasant Late Ravilal Pyakurel affirms this. Written in an intimidating language, the notice asks the latter to be present on 20th December 1945 at Danak Adda court without fail. However, few cases related to land and taxation of the villagers was forwarded to the Durbar by the Mandals through written complaints.
Notice issued by a Mandal Brihaspati Upadhyay of Tareythang village to one of his villagers Late Ravilal Pyakurel on 18th December 1945 against a report made by another villager Sarvey Bidhyapati Kafley stating that the accused had chopped off a tree.
Due to their proximity to power, these Mandals also exploited the Sikkimese peasants in the same manner as by the Kazis and the Thikadars. It has been revealed by the victims and the descendents of such victims that commoners were heavily exploited by the Mandals especially during special occasions in the palace like the birthdays of Kings and the Princes. During such occasions, these Mandals ordered the peasants to offer some kind of gifts to them which they would give to the Kazis as a memento from the peasants of their respective villages. The peasant had to gift rice, maize, butter, curd, wine and in some cases meat, fish, and other valuable edibles. Yearly collection of such gifts was made during Meshu Purnima in the month of Bhadra (July-August) also known as Bhadau Purnima in Nepali.
Apart from such cupidity, the Mandals, during the process of collection, used to keep a portion out of the collected gifts leaving nearly 85% to the palace. Again, those gifts were deducted by the Mukhtiyars and Kazis leaving hardly 25% for the occasion in the palace. The justification about keeping such gifts is also interesting “Maha Kadnele Haat ta chatcha nai” meaning ‘a person who takes out honey from the hives definitely licks his hands’. Further, the peasants had to send a member of his household to assist the Mandal during farming in the form of Bethi Khetala. This Bethi Khetala was a free service to be rendered by a villager to the Mandals. The sufferers remind their black years in these words:
“We had to go to the fields of the Kazi Thikadars and Mandals for the harvest or for farming; they gave a fistful of dry maize to work for the whole day”.
Receipt issued to a peasant Man Bahadur Limboo in 1945 by a Mandal Kharga Singh 
Auxiliary, when the peasants needed monetary help, they would visit the Mandals for debt to be used for the marriage, or in the death rites of the peasants. If a peasant took loan of Rs 100/- he had to pay interest of 1 Muri of Rice to the Mandal from whom he had taken the loan. Hence, in feudal Sikkim, the Mandals had designated themselves as Kazi and proved to be the one who were directly responsible for the exploitation which ultimately gave birth to the peasant resistance in the secluded Kingdom of Sikkim.





References:
Tax receipts collected from Harka Bahadur Limboo aka Khukurey Bajey of Chota Singtam East Sikkim on 21st January 2012
  Information collected through personal interview from erstwhile Mandals Kharga Bahadur Chauhan of Temi, Chandra Bahadur Basnett of Namli, Passang Tshering Bhutia of Namin and Phur Tshering Lepcha of Marchak villages during field survey in December 2011 and January 2012
Sikkim State, Office of the Dewan, Order No.4, Revenue Administration, Dated 19th August 1949, Gangtok
 Information collected through personal interview from Ash Man Rai of Assam Lingzey on 27th January 2012
 Scan Copy of the Notice issued on 18th December 1945 by Mandal Brihaspati Upadhyay to Ravilal Pyakurel of Tareythang village, East Sikkim. The document is an important credential to understand the judicial rights enjoyed by the village Mandals.

The Mukhtiyars in Feudal Sikkim


In the feudal administrative hierarchy of Sikkim, the Mukhtiyars enjoyed position next to the Kazi/Thikadars. Anna Balikci presumes that, the term got its origination from Ottoman Empire as the village Chiefs there were known as Mukhtar.We do not have much information about the commencement of this system in Sikkim. The available Official documents issued from the Royal Durbar are silent about the existence of any offices related to the Mukhtiyars hence, they were probably appointed by the Kazis in their Elakhas to maintain law and order in their estates. Auxiliary, documents belonging to Rai Saheb Durga Sumsher Pradhan of Rhenock also indicate that the Mukhtiyars were appointed by the Kazis and by other lessee holders.
Further, my field survey report bears ample testimony to the fact that the Mukhtiyars were given the charge of a whole Elakah of a lessee holder or a Thikadar. He was also granted the charge of litigation under his jurisdiction. Their duty was akin to today’s District Magistrate and was with a few hereditary exceptions, appointed on merit.From the pictures collected from the erstwhile Mukhtiyar family of Namchi in South Sikkim, it can be stated that they had a comfortable and a reverential life.
Photograph of Mukhtiyar San Man Tamang of Namchi South Sikkim. The person sitting on a chair in the middle was the Mukhtiyar. The golden ornaments of the women and the dress they clad in shows that they had a very comfortable way of life. The people standing behind were the peasants of his estate in Namchi. Pic. Courtesy Late Rup Maya Tamang, Namchi Bazaar, South Sikkim
Being a local of the Estate owned by the Kazis, the Mukhtiyars had detail information about the settlers. The Kazis and Thikadars, being the “high born” elites of the Kingdom hardly visited their respective holdings in the villages and preferred to live in comfort in the beautiful mansions in the capital of the Kingdom. The Kazis usually gave charges to trusted persons residing in their estates. In another word, the Mukhtiyars were to serve the Kazis as a bridge between the peasants and the Landlords.They also had to maintain the land records related to the peasants of his Elakah. As the trusted persons of the Kazis, the Mukhtiyars too possessed a vast tract of land for their personal use and the same was distributed among the Pakhureys. The descendents of Tashiding Mukhtiyar still profess the exploitative money lending job to the peasants in their periphery.
The information of the descendants of the Mukhtiyars highlights that they too lived their lives in a great comfort. They had many servants at their residence who were mostly the children of the tax defaulters.They had to make necessary arrangements in their Elakhas during the visit of King and other high ranking native and British Officials.The life standard enjoyed by the Mukhtiyars was almost similar to the Kazis and Thikadars. They had constructed beautiful mansions, travelled on the back of Arabic horses, and possessed enormous wealth. The Kothi of Namchi Mukhtiyar which was constructed nearly a century ago still steals a glimpse or two of every visitor. However, it appears that these officials were not prevalent in every estate hold by the lessee holders like the Kazis and Thikadars. The estates in the proximity of the Kingdom’s capital did not have any office related to the Mukhtiyars.

References




Balikci, Anna (2008), Lamas, Shamans and Ancestors- Village Religion in Sikkim, Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands
Appointment letter of 1932 of a Mukhtiyar by Rai Saheb Durga Sumsher Pradhan  of Rhenock East Sikkim preserved at Ramgauri Sangrahalaya Rhenock
Information collected through personal interview from Mrs. Rup Maya Tamang, a granddaughter of erstwhile Mukhtiyar of Namchi Late San Man Tamang on 23rd April 2010
Information collected through personal interview from the peasants of Tashiding village in West Sikkim on 21st  and 22nd December 2011
 Information collected from the villages of Assam Lingzey, Kadamtam, Aho, Namin, Marchak and Samdur which are in proximity to Gangtok.

Assessment of Maharaja Sidkeong Tulku (February 1914 - December 1914) as a Radical Ruler

On 29th April 1914, with the recognition of Government of India, Sidkeong Tulku succeeded his father Thotub Namgyal as the 10th ruler of Sikkim. He had the benefit of sound modern education. He was an undergraduate at Pembroke College, in Oxford. Alexandra David Neel, who met Sidkeong Namgyal during her research, writes that the King would speak English more fluently than Tibetan and  could also speak a fluent Hindi and a bit of Chinese. During his stay in Oxford, he had been exposed to the revolutionary ideas of the West. With the Political Officer J.C. White, he travelled around in India as well as in the neighbouring countries.
His Highness the Xth Maharaja of Sikkim Sidkeong Tulku
Pic: Tempa Trans Himalayan Arts
After his homecoming from Oxford in 1908, Sidkeong had been assigned with the charges of Forest, Monasteries, and Schools. Even before assuming the power of a de facto ruler Sidkeong was at the helm of affairs that is evident from his important deals he made in 1913 AD as a Maharajkumar. The first important dealing was abolition of imprisonment as a penalty for non payment of debts and another was the record in the Council Proceedings on the ban of settlement of plain-men. Immediately after his accession, Sidkeong made negotiations with Messrs Burn and Company, Calcutta for concession to cut and sell timber, for manufacture of bamboo pulp, for hydro electric project and wire ropeways and that was satisfactorily concluded on 30th April 1913. It was due to his affectionate relationship with the British, even the Tibetan elites like Panchen Lama requested Sidkeong to inform the British for the arrangement of a meeting at Delhi. This exhibits him as a brilliant diplomat apart from an excellent and placid ruler who eliminated all the prior policies adopted by his predecessors and established good relations with the British India. It appears that, during his reign, the Tibetan Government had donated some tracts of land to Sikkim. Therefore, Sidkeong at this point can be regarded as an intermediary between Tibet and British.
Enlightened with the Western Education, Sidkeong Tulku attempted to bring the monasteries towards their social obligation. However, the monks were hesitant to convert his ideas into practice. This was a revolutionary sacrilege coming from the ruler who was supposed to preserve their interests. Taking a budge ahead, Sidkeong had raised his voice of opposition, against the privileges enjoyed by the feudal aristocracy who had an imperative role in decision making in the earlier period. The writings of Ms. Neel provide a testimonial that even the condition of the Clergies, who too happened to be the peasants, were not economically prosperous. She writes:
“The peasant clergies of these forests are generally poor and ill fed, and it is difficult for them to suppress a thrill of delight when death of a rich villager promises them several days’ feast”.
The pathetic condition of the peasants forced them to send several complaints to the Durbar regarding the method of assessment of taxes by their respective landlords. Similarly, there were also other cases of migration of the peasants to Bhutan and Darjeeling due to the lopsided and oppressive taxation system. The hidden transcripts of the Sikkimese peasantry now thus started to come out in the form of petition and prayers to the Maharaja against the injustice they were subjected to at the hands of their landlords. In order to curb the selfish interests of the landlords, Sidkeong Tulku abolished the discriminatory taxation rates among the Bhutia-Lepcha and Nepali peasants and reverted to the old system of Koot or Kut. Possibly, taking the matters of harassment and exploitation into consideration, Sidkeong Tulku proposed to liquidate landlordism that was indeed a matter of relief to the subjugated peasants of Sikkim. On the contrary, by his reformist zeal, he not only had exasperated the feudal landlords, but also Claude White’s successor in the Political Office, Charles Bell.

In a very short period of hardly ten months, Sidkeong did some remarkable tasks, for the development of Sikkim. His reign witnessed opening of several schools for the propagation of western education. There were two secondary schools at Gangtok, 25 primary and village schools, 16 missionary schools and 6 schools at the landlords’ estates. Likewise, few other schools were opening in the remote villages. Auxiliary, he made certain amendments in the prevailing laws and encouraged his subjects for plantation of trees in waste lands. Reserved forests were categorized into two ranges namely Eastern and Western and they were kept in charge of the Foresters. It is noteworthy to mention here that, these forests were to be managed by the landlords as Forest Officers of their respective Elakhas. Strict rules and laws were adopted to abolish corruption from the forest resources and if a Forest Officer failed to execute his responsibilities accordingly were dealt with a heavier hand. 13 Landlords were fined by the Durbar due to their negligence and casualness towards their duties that include the Bermiok Kazi who was occupying a higher position in the State Council. The evidence is ample enough to argue that Sidkeong Tulku was an austere, a devoted, and a peasant adoring Maharaja who was keen to eliminate corruption from every level of administration including monastery. He also encouraged his subjects to live a clean and hygienic life and established a hospital and a dispensary at Gangtok. However, his zeal and enthusiasm to provide a healthy administration in Sikkim did not last long. His heterodoxy and revolutionary ideas became a major cause of his death. In December 1914, Sidkeong was taken ill. It is believed that the King died due to a heart failure caused by jaundice due to a severe chill. However, it is also said that, a British physician from Bengal made a heavy transfusion of brandy, put him under a number of blankets, and burnt charcoal near his bed. Thus, Sidkeong died due to suffocationin suspicious circumstances at a very early stage. 

References:
Administration Report of the Sikkim State for 1913-14
Administration Report of the Sikkim State for 1914-15
Unnamed Document, Year 1914, Palace Document, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Deorali, Gangtok.
 Letter to Sidkeong Tulku from Panchen Lama dated 1909-1913, Palace Document, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Deorali, Gangtok.
Letter from Sidkeong Tulku to the Tibetan Government, Palace Document, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Deorali, Gangtok
 Basnett, Lal Bahadur, (1974) Sikkim- A short Political History, S. Chand & Co. (Pvt.) Ltd. New Delhi
Neel, Alexandra David (1931) With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet, Penguin Books, London 
 Kotturan, George, (1983), The Himalayan Gateway- History and Culture of Sikkim, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi,
 Sikkim- A Concise Chronicle 


Dzumsa:- An Inimitable organism of Lachung



Lachung village during Summer Pic:http://www.holidayiq.com
Lachung, situated in the northern district of Sikkim is a beautiful village, secluded from the chaotic city lifestyles has its own exclusivity. Lachung is at an elevation of about 9,600 ft or 3,000 m and at the confluence of the Lachen River and Lachung Rivers, tributaries of the River Teesta. The word Lachung means "small pass". There was a period when this place was not opened to the tourists due to its traditional and customary importance. But, in the recent period, Lachung has been made available to them to explore the culture and custom of the indigenous. It will not be wrong to argue that, Lachung, the place of mystic mountains is a de-facto Shangri-La. Before the annexation of Tibet in 1950, Lachung was a trading post between Sikkim and Tibet, after which it was closed down. Lachung has been described as the "most picturesque village of Sikkim" by British explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker  in his famous work, The Himalayan Journal. 

Lachung Pipon with his Horse Pic:Dr. Alice S. Kandell 1971 May
Lachung Pipon with Children Pic:Dr. Alice S Kandell 1971 May
Approximating its exquisiteness, the village has atypical hamlet institution known as Dzumsa. Dzumsa is a traditional administrative body of the villages of Lachen and Lachung  in North Sikkim. It is a self-government system where a headman, known as the 'Pipon', is elected and the community where all the disputes are settled in a democratic manner. The system of governance is traditional and follows the tribal social organizational position which is entirely different, unique and to some extent more democratic than the Panchayati Raj institution prevalent in other districts of Sikkim. The traditional village level organisation consists of the elders of every household of the village including women and Lamas. It resembles some features of the village governance prevalent in the Vedic Age known as Sabha and Samiti. Two persons are elected from amongst the members of the Dzumsa as the Pipons. They are assisted in their daily affairs by the Lamas known as Chutimpas. The Pipons have wide powers and functions in accordance with the customary laws. The Dzumsa conferred verdict for all the cases including major ones in the villages of Lachen and Lachung. It is important to mention here that, the term of the office of Dzumsa is fixed for one year and after accomplishing its term the office has to be dissolved and a fresh election is to be conducted for the smoother functioning of the village institution.
GYEL-PE-LETSEN-CHOBGYAL:
Gyel Pe Letsen Chobgyal is a Committee comprised of eighteen senior members of Lachung Valley including five monastery representatives.  The committee takes charges after the completion of the term of the elected Pipons. They remained active and execute most of the duties, earlier executed by the elected Pipons until the new Pipon is elected. This system of self-governance was established during the first half of the 19th century in order to provide structure and solidity for societies and their activities. Even after the merger of Sikkim with India the traditional system of Dzumsa is still prevalent in North Sikkim.



Tax Receipts of Feudal Sikkim collected at Chota Singtam



A tax receipt of 1922
A tax receipt after the abolition of Kazi and Thikadarism
Document plays a vital role for the construction of History; devoid of it, history tastes more story than a factual account. While undertaking field survey, I had been able to gather few documents related to the monarchical Sikkim which are not only rare but are atypical in their own ways. These peasant related documents are not available in any of the collections or in achieve of the State of Sikkim. The documents posted here belong to one Nar Dhoj Limboo of Rabitar Namchi, whose family was shifted to Chota Singtam in East Sikkim during pre Second World War period. These days the family of the said person is residing at the same village of Chota Singtam where Nar Dhoj Limboo found asylum against the recurrent feudal pressure. The once exiled family of Namchi has preserved many documents related to the feudal Sikkim that provide a broader space for the peasants’ history of Sikkim to dwell in. The oldest document which is maintained by the family of Mr. Harka Bahadur Limboo aka Khukurey Bajey of Chota Singtam, East Sikkim belonged to the year 1922. This document is a tax receipt paid by his father Nar Dhoj to the Mandal Kul Bahadur Chettri of Sadam Ilakha on 31st December 1922. Likewise, one can notice such proof of payments of the subsequent years till 1936 before they got shifted to Chota Singtam. The striking features of such receipts are the utilization of personal seals of the Thikadars by the village Mandals instead of the Lal Mohur or Royal Seals. The position and status of the Thikadars and the Kazis in the feudalistic Sikkim are evident from the use of such personal Seals. The Thikadar of Sadam Ilakha used to be a Nepali, who was a Newar by caste. Therefore, their seals bear an icon of a half moon (Ardha Chandra) and Nepali remark of Shree. But, there is a gradual change in the use of such seals. In a receipt issued by Mandal Wangdu Lepcha of Sadam village to the same person on 31st December 1932 bears mark of a rubber round seal that inscribes Moti Chand Pradhan, Turuk Ilakha Sikkim. Again, some of the receipts of the 50’s and 60’s have the earlier features.

A receipt of the membership fee of Sikkim State Congress
Tax receipt of 1933 (post World War I and Pre World War II)
The most important document maintained by Mr. Harka Bahadur Limboo is indeed the membership certificate of the Sikkim National Congress. The membership fee to the earliest peasant organization of Sikkim was made by a person named Man Bahadur Limboo, possibly, one of the brothers of Nar Dhoj Limboo. The receipt confirms that the latter made a payment of 50 Paise (Aath Anna) to secure membership of the said organization. It also bears signature of the Joint Secretary of the Sikkim State Congress (probably of Namchi District) Mr. Kali Prasad Rai. Further, many receipts of Kuts and Adhia methods of revenue assessment are also preserved by him.

The information about the family of Nar Dhoj Limboo and the documents were acquired during field survey on 21st January 2012

Nga Dak Monastery once a Palace of Pende Ongmoo



Nga-Dak Monastery at Namchi

















Nga Dak Monastery is situated 2 Kms above Namchi that offers substantiation about the early Namgyals in a most voluminous manner. It was primarily constructed as a palace for the most disastrous Princess of Sikkim Pende Ongmo (Pendi Wangmoo) by King Chagdor Namgyal (Tensung Namgyal?) in or around 1700 AD. This edifice has tolerated two major jolts in the recent years and amidst nudges, the structure is yet standing and updating the times of yore of the early Sikkim in general and the Namgyals in particular. Nga Dak is a Tibetan word that corresponds to “promise”. Apart from abhorrence, the monastery also symbolises a struggle for supremacy between Princess Pende Ongmoo and Chagdor Namgyal that took place in the 2nd decade of the 18th century. 

King Chagdor Namgyal succeeded his father Tensung Namgyal at the age of 14 in 1700 AD. Soon after his succession, trouble arose between him and his half sister Pendi Ongmoo, who claimed that she was entitled to the throne. Pendi Ongmoo, whose mother was a Bhutanese, approached her maternal relatives for help and invited Bhutanese force to attack Sikkim to evict her brother. As a sequel to this, the Bhutanese attacked Rhabdentse, the then Capital of Sikkim and the areas adjoining to the Capital remained under Bhutanese for more than seven years. The young King was rescued by Yugthing Teshi, a loyal Councillor who took him to Lhasa via Elam and Walong in Nepal. The King remained in Tibet for eight years leaving everything rampant in his Kingdom.

Room where Pende Ongmoo was executed 
Chagdor returned to Sikkim accompanied by a Tibetan named Jigmed Pao and began to consolidate his position in Sikkim by driving out the Bhutanese elements from Sikkimese territories. Under the guidance of Lama Jigmed Pao, Chagdor accomplished the construction of Pemiongchi monastery, one of the oldest and most famous monasteries in Sikkim. The monastery consisted of 108 monks including the Raja himself who was an ardent Buddhist. The most significant works of Chagdor Namgyal include Changa-Yig, a book on monastic discipline, Rong-Chham, a religious dance in the honour of the Takpoo or war like demons and he is also credited of the designing of Lepcha alphabets.

An old wooden printing system preserved at Nga Dag 
Pendi Ongmoo, the King’s half sister however, was not solaced and the anomaly between them continued and culminated into a crisis. She conspired with a Tibetan physician to kill the King and to secure her position on the Sikkimese throne. During a visit to Ralong hot spring in 1717, Pende Ongmoo insisted the physician to open the main artery of the King which eventually caused the death of Chagdor Namgyal. After the death of the King, a force was sent to Namchi to execute the princess. The doctor was granted a fierce death by the Sikkimese ministers. Likewise Pende Ongmoo was put to death with a silk scarf inside a room of the Nga Dak palace.The place is also known as Pende Lhaptse and it needs a serious attention of the concerned officials for its preservation. 

Democracy Through Traditional Practices- Study on Pang Lhabsol


Ugen Bhutia
Deepmoni Gogoi
INTRODUCTION-
From times immemorial, perhaps after the birth of so called “Gods and religion” human civilization has fought and is still fighting with each other to show their faith towards their God and religion. This included escalation of one’s faith and domination and exploitation of others. However, adoption of democracy in most of the countries gave birth to the hope of peaceful settlements of conflicting issues. India has adapted and turned out to be the largest democracy in spite of its multidimensional ethnic diversity for building peace in its diverse socio-cultural structure. But, the reality remains different. Today, despite of many policies and programs, thousands of intellectual debates, India suffers from ethnic conflicts and cultural imbalance. This is  mainly due to lack of awareness of the grass root level problems and lack of proper plans for integration and deprivation of participation of different cultures together, which could have improved the status of democracy in the nation.
Statue of Unity: Lepcha King Thi kong Tek and Khey Bumsa
Among the North-Eastern states of the country, Sikkim in particular, can be a model for integrated democratic principle, cultural peace and assimilative attitude through its unique cultural practices. Sikkim through its cultural practices proves that the ideology of democracy should not be learnt from theories and academic writings alone. Rather motto of democracy “of the people, by the people, for the people” is inherent in our own rich heritage and age-old cultural traditions
 Among all the festivals celebrated in Sikkim Pang Lhabsol is a festival observed by the various indigenous communities of the state. It has been traditionally an event which depicts the loving nature of all the people who take part in it and thereby helps in the harmonious development of the state.
Similar to the other parts of the country, Sikkim too is a culturally diverse state. Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalese are it indigenous communities who are different from each other on every aspects of their life like language, food habits, clothing etc. But despite these differences all the three communities come together to celebrate the festival which is originally a Buddhist festival. As Lepchas and Bhutias belong to the Buddhist community, the participation of Nepalese in the event highlights the growing consciousness about being the Sikkimese and has turned this festival into state festival. It is the most unique festival celebrated in Sikkim, it is held on the 15th day of the seventh month according to lunar calendar that usually falls on the end of August or the month of September.
Once independent and ruled by a Bhutia King, Sikkim today is 22nd state of Indian Union. With the total area of 2,818 square miles or 7,096 square kilometres, it shares its boundaries with Nepal on the west and Bhutan in the East and China in the North.
Lepchas are considered to be the original inhabitants of Sikkim. On the other hand Bhutias migrated to Sikkim much before 16th century from Tibet followed by Nepalese from Nepal. After the merger with India in 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of Indian Union and democracy flowed into the region.

 Background of Pang Lhabsol
The history of Pang Lhabsol goes back to 13th century when a prince of Kham Minyak House (China occupied Tibet), while on pilgrimage in Tibet, performed a miraculous feat of raising the main pillar of Sakya Monastery single handed which work otherwise was possible to be executed by one hundred thousand people. He was, therefore, given the title of Khye-Bum-Sa meaning ‘the strength of one lakh men’ by Sakya Lama and was also offered Jomo Guru, daughter of Sakya Lama for marriage, which Khye-Bum-Sa accepted. Soon newlywed couple settled at Phari in Chumbi Valley (now part of China occupied Tibet).  As the couple had no child, they consulted the religious authorities for their blessings for child so as to maintain the continuity of their hierarchy. After deep consultation, the religious authorities were able to see the prophecy that the lepcha seer in the land lying southwards would be able to give the boon of children. Pursuing this prophesy, khye Bumsa proceeded southwards of Tibet and passing through Yakla reached the present Lingchom area by sheer fulfilment of supernatural events. There Khye Bhumsa met a hoary headed couple engaged in cultivation and he enquired about the Lepcha seer of them. The couple lead the strangers towards a small hut like cave Phyak- Tse below Phiongong at present Rong-pa, they saw the hoary headed man wearing his native apparel and sitting on a raised throne. He was Thekong Tek, Lepcha Chief of Sikkim.
After Khye Bumsa stated the purpose of his visit, Lepcha chief blessed him a son. Soon after their return, couple had a son and they again visited Lepcha Chief to express their thanks. It was then that the Thekong Tek insisted for oath of Blood Brotherhood between him and Khye Bumsa.
On a raw hide of animal sat Thekong Tek and Khye Bumsa with the intestine of the animal tied around them and blood splattered all around. The swearing of the oath of Blood Brotherhood took place under the witness of Khanchendzonga. To perpetuate the treaty and its objective of unity, peace and harmony amongst the future generation of the land, a symbolic stone was erected as per tradition with blood splattered over it. The place where the oath was taken is presently known as ‘kabi Longtsok’ in North Sikkim. ‘Kabi’ meaning our blood, ‘long’ meaning stone and ‘Tsok’ meaning erect in Lepcha. Altogether meaning ‘the erect stone with our blood which is an oath sworn’.
  It is this oath or the treaty of blood brotherhood that today is celebrated as Pang Lhabsol meaning “worship of the guardian deities” in Sikkim. It has been celebrated from the time of Chogyal (king) Chakdor Namgyal (early 17th century), in commemoration of this treaty.
This inherited ritual is performed by invoking the deities and paying tribute to them. Holy Khanchendzonga which is still believed to be the protector of the land is one of them. In earlier occasion Lepcha Boongthing (priest) who were believed to be empowered with transcendental powers and good enchanter, were assigned to perform these rituals. Performance of this ritual indicates that the promise of ancestors has been maintained by their progeny.
Pang Lhabsol and Democracy-
Sikkim does not appear to have a long history of conflicts among different communities. Though there are some evidence of cultural exchange and inter-community marriage among the members of the three major communities in the past. During Chogyal (king) era, Pang Lhabsol was celebrated as the brotherhood treaty between the two communities i.e. Lepcha and Bhutia.the recent involvement of the Nepalis in the festival has escalated the communal harmony. The equal participation of all the major communities in the state highlights their inherent interest for the festival.The festival though originally observed by the Lepchas and the Bhutias , but  in course of time the Nepalese also started observing this festival.like the other communities the Nepalese too observersed each and every ritual sincerely.  Being so engrossed in this festival we find the Nepalese assimilating with the other communities.
the President of the Pang-Lhabsol organizing Committee Mr T.Lachungpa on the occasion of erecting the Statue of Unity in 1996, stated in a press meet  that “the people from all communities got together for the celebration and Pang Lhabsol’s real significance was understood by all”. He further added that “the significance of the occasion is that the Sikkimese has never come together in such numbers and with so much enthusiasm to celebrate a festival unique to Sikkim. I’m not saying that we should not participate in other functions and programmes, in fact, we should do so with equal enthusiasm, but we should also ensure that this particular occasion is celebrated in a bigger and grander fashion in the years to come. There is no platform other than this when all Sikkimese can come together as a single unit and celebrate their unity” the words of such a noble person who gave his heart out for the commencement of the inauguration of the ‘statue of unity’ still remains true. Even after 16 years, Pang Lhabsol is the only festival which reminds people to be united, irrespective to their religion, caste or community and integrates them at one place to celebrate a single festival.
Pic: panoramio.com
It will be erroneous to say that there is completely no conflict between these communities in the state. After merging with Indian Union in 1975, cultural-ethnical politics has emerged and has been sustained and proliferated. The merger with India brought democracy in the region followed by the growth in caste and community consciousness among different groups and sub-groups which has led to mushrooming of several caste/community organizations with claims and demands of their own. The Lepcha organizations like Rangjyong Mutanchi RongOng Shejum (Sikkim lepcha Youth Association) for example demands for fifty percent reservation in the State Assembly, education and public employment, legal protection of their land, separate delimitation etc. Bhutia organizations like Survival Sikkimese and Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee emphasize for restoration of rights and privileges of community which they had been enjoying earlier. On the other hand, the Nepali organization like Gorkha Apex Committee has demanded for equal treatment at par with the Lepchas and Bhutia, and extension of “creamy layer” concept to exclude members of royal families and Kazis from the Tribal list. However, the situation is not out of control and none of these associations has till date shown any sign of disturbing the peace of the state. And many people in Sikkim believe that the reason for being  peaceful and harmonious state is due to observing festivals like Pang Lhabsol which sustains the light of brotherhood, peace and harmony in the minds and hearts of the Sikkimese. And they are seen to acquire  moral virtues like tolerance, patience and brotherhood. Inspite of the plurality of the Sikkimese community the innocence and purity of Sikkimese people helps them to integrate and live harmoniously.

Conclusion:
One of the main objectives of democracy is the development of a participatory way of life dedicated to the liberation of the potentialities of its members and requires processes by which different cultures and groups within a given culture, and individuals divided by innumerable other differences can co-operate to solve problems. Pang lhabsol is a festival which ensures participation equally by the members of the society belonging to various ethnic communities in Sikkim. This festival acts as a thread that binds the people of Sikkim with a single identity of a nation.
 References
-          1996- Souvenir- Inauguration of Statue of Unity.
-          1998- Souvenir- Celebration of Pang Lhabsol as day of brotherhood.
-          1996- Sikkim Observer-National Hill Weekly.
-           2011- Sikkim-Ethnicity And Political Dynamics
-          Democracy as Culture-Deweyan Pragmatism in a globalising world-
Edited by Sor-Hoon Tan & John Whalen-Bridge, Published-2008                                                                                                   

This paper was presented at a National Seminar on "Democracy and Diversity in North-East India" at Guwahati university by Ugen Bhutia and Deepmoni Gogoi (Sikkim University).