The pioneer of Nepali Education in Sikkim.....Rashmi Prasad Alley

Rashmi Prasad Alley was born in 1898 at a place called Gwalpara in Assam. He was a writer, a devoted teacher and a great devotee of the Nepali language. Lt. Alley was the first person to introduce the system of imparting education in Nepali language in Sikkim. He came to Sikkim in 1920 when the country was at the core of illiteracy, poverty and was crammed with the ignorant oppressed masses. There was no stipulation of giving out education in Nepali language in Sikkim when Lt. Alley came to Gangtok in 1920. He insisted the Royal Government to make a provision to convey education in the widespread language of the Sikkim Subjects. But, none of the authority paid any concentration to the ideas made by him. Aggravated from the Government’s retort he himself started to teach his students in their local tongue on every Saturday and Sunday at his own residence. After his meticulous attempt the Nepali language got its recognition among the masses which greatly helped for the expansion of the Nepali literature in Sikkim. 

Lt. Alley got his basic education in Bangla medium in Assam and taking Assamese as his key subject, he accomplished his High School in 1913. He did his Plus Two (then known as I.A) from Cotton College Guwahati. In 1919 he came to Darjeeling and worked for Chandrika (a Nepali News Paper Edited by Lt. Paras Mani Pradhan). It was in 1920; Lt. Alley got his appointment as a Head Master at Gangtok Boarding School. There were two Boarding Schools at Gangtok: The Bhutia Boarding School and The Nepali Boarding School. It was due to his diligent endeavor he was able to unite both the Schools and also played a vital role for the foundation of first ever high school at Gangtok. He worked as a teacher till 1941 at the Gangtok High School and during this period the system of dispensing education among the Nepali students started in Sikkim.
Apart from a teacher Lt. Alley was a great philanthropist who along with Raghu Bir Singh Basnett founded Dukha Niwarak Samity for the destitute. Lt. Alley was appointed as the Forest Minister in the ‘Popular Ministry’ of 1949. But, due to some circumstances the said Ministry was dissolved within 29 days of its formation.

(The photograph was taken in front of Gangtok Boarding School in 1930, Lt. Rashmi Prasad Alley can be seen in the middle row)

Old Pictures......

Chak Tha Rimponche.....A fact or an anecdote?

The history of Sikkim is always surrounded with the folklore, mysteries and fictions. It is covered by a thick blanket of legend and mythology in which one can find births, re births and incarnations and much mythological bits and pieces which in fact have no credibility in history. But, even being mythological in nature they cannot be ignored entirely as they have their roots in our times of yore. The photograph pasted here belongs to a person who was then known as Chak- Tha Rimponche, who according to the people of Tashiding West Sikkim, used to be a conventional Buddhist. Chak Tha was a Bhutia by caste who hailed from Tashiding (Gangyap), West Sikkim and a Lama by profession. But, according to the few natives of Tashiding, at a distance from his occupation he used to tame cattle in the forest of Pokhri- Dara and its neighboring area. The descendents of those cattle tamers believe that Chak Tha had some paranormal power by which he could even control the nature. It was due to his clairvoyant smack he could fly like a bird which (according to the belief of the local people) could prove a great calamity for them. Therefore, to avoid such disaster Chak Tha was kept like a captive by his village men and Lamas by tying him with an iron chain which weighed more than a quintal.  Due to the lack of evidences it is not possible to ascertain his definite period. But, when we stumble upon with the photograph of the Rimponche it becomes clear for us to understand that he certainly lived in Sikkim after the latter’s contact with British India. Because, before the advent of the British, camera, photographs and sketches were dreamlike things to the Sikkimese society.  
The account of Chak- Tha greatly allured me in the beginning but, when I heard the whole narrative I found it to be larger-than-life. The half naked body along with some other unknown object proves that he was a great Tantric Lama who certainly was the follower of Tibetan Tantricism. The Dammaru in front of him (right hand side), his hair-style, and a Trisul kind of entity on his left hand makes it clear that Chak- Tha was a great Tantric Lama who in all probability exhibited his acquaintance in front of the villagers and those acts of the Rimpoche later became the legends in the village and transferred from one generation to another. But, apart from all other issues, it is a fact that Chak Tha was a native of Tashiding (Gangyap) and his family still lives at the very same place where he had his eminence.
The picture was possibly taken by some British officials on their way to the famous Tashiding monastery.

Trade between India and Tibet in the Colonial Period

Nathu-La has played a noteworthy role for the endorsement of British trade in the colonial era. It not only served as an access to Tibet for the British merchandise but from this very doorway the British haNathu-La has played a noteworthy role for the endorsement of British trade in the colonial era. It not only served as an access to Tibet for the British merchandise but from this very doorway the British had been able to set up an amiable relation with the sleeping giant i.e. China. The picture shows how trade and communication were undertaken by both the parties. The chief means of transportation (as shown in the picture) in those days was of the mules. We can clearly notice the condition of roads probably constructed by the British Government for their trade and commerce in the far flung land of Tibet. It is to be mention here that, after having their upper hand in the administration of Sikkim, they started to construct the roads and bridges from the Himalayan Kingdom which connected British India with Tibet. Even I was told by Mr. A.D. Moddie that, before the triumph of Communist China over Tibet, the similar trading features were prevalent between the two countries. Regarding the transportation system that was available in Sikkim in 1957 he writes:-

“…As there were only two ways, a trader’s or a pilgrim’s permit, I opted for the former. I wrote to our agent in Gangtok, Sikkim, to arrange a mule and a muleteer for me; I would walk. When I arrived in Gangtok and enquired about the mule arrangement, the Agent prevaricated. He shyly disclosed he had arranged twenty mules. He was taking advantage of a sahib-type, who also knew the Political Officer, Gangtok, to send his mules train in, for greater security, under my leadership. When I met Apa Pant, the P.O. for my permit in English, Hindi and Tibetan, I thought I would amuse him with the story of one mule becoming twenty. Apa Pant saw no humor in it. In serious official style, he advised me to take all twenty mules saying, “One mule no status, twenty mules status”.
The writings of Moddie are justified by the documentation preserved by Das Studio Darjeeling. It probably is the only document potted in India associated with Tibetan trade. We are grateful to the proprietors of Das Studio for preserving the antiques which are so prized to peep inside our past.

Second Letter of Mrs. Indira Gandhi to Mr. K.B. Adhikari of Rhenock...

This letter is also sent to Mr. K.B. Adhikari of Rhenock by the then Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi. I am again obliged to Mr. Deepak Bhandari Sharma of Rhenock for sharing this implausible document with me. The correspondence is a response from the Prime Minister to Mr. Adhikari about the invitation made by the latter on his son’s wedding. In the letter dated 17th February 1979, Mrs. Gandhi has congratulated the folks of Mr. Adhikari and conveyed her best wishes to the newly wedded couple. But, due to the negligence made by the person with whom this document was conserved, the signature made by the Indian Prime Minister is not properly detectable.

Kanchenjunga....The First Nepali News based journal of Sikkim.

Sikkim, on the eve of Indian independence, was a closed book as far as the political activities were concerned. Few movements were taking place in some far-flung places of Sikkim but, they did not have much impact on the political enlargement of the country. They can be considered as an act of waywardness by the peasants against their feudal lords and those acts were flattened down with iron hands. This all was happening due to the political oblivion among the subjects of Sikkim. They had an intimidation in their minds, an intimidation of confiscation of their private property therefore; they could not raise their voices against the atrocities imposed upon them by their Masters (Kazis).  There was no question of education in such a situation where one loaf of bread was dearer then the philosophy of Marx, Engel, Gandhi and Socrates.  
For the establishment of an egalitarian government, journalism has always played an essential role. Journal not only provides information about the fresh developments but also provides broader sphere for arousing the feeling of liberty, parity and democracy among the browbeaten and mistreated section of a society. Before the birth of ‘Kanchenjunga’ there were very few journals like Amulya-Ratna (hand written journal) published in 1948 and 'Pushpanjali' of the APATAN literary society and The Pole-Star published in 1951 by Mahananda Poudyal were in the scenario but, they were not able to reach at the doorsteps of the ill-treated section as they focused mostly on the literature feature, ignoring the political aspects. To fill-up the inadequacy in the political process of Sikkim the publication of a monthly Nepali journal ‘Kanchenjunga’ was started on 15th August 1957. The editor of this journal was Nahakul Pradhan but, the entire important workout for the publication of 'Kanchenjunga' was completed by Mr. Kashiraj Pradhan. It is to be noted here that 'Kanchenjunga' was the first news based journal of Sikkim written in the language of the majority i.e. Nepali.
I am greatly indebted to Miss Pabitra Bhandari for sharing with me the aged page of the ‘Kanchenjunga’ which seems to be the 26th issue of the journal. Published on 15th September 1959, it provides us information about the asylum of the Dalai Lama of Tibet at Mussouri in India.  It is stated further in the journal that the Gyawa Karmapa had taken his refuge at Rumtek monastery, nearby Gangtok, along with his 80 followers. A refugee Committee was formed on the chairmanship of the eldest princess of Sikkim Pema Choden to take care of the Tibetan refugees. According to the reports of Kanchenjunga of 15th August 1957, three to four thousand refugees were to be permitted to come to Sikkim to work as the labourers for the construction of roads under Public Works Department, Government of Sikkim. The first group of such refugees which comprised 271 Tibetans had already reached Sikkim and was executing its duty as the labourers in North Sikkim.
Probably, this is only the piece of information related with the Tibetan refugees in Sikkim which is obtainable from our state. 

Letter of Mrs. Indira Gandhi to Mr. K. B Adhikari of Rhenock...

I am greatly thankful to Mr. Deepak Bhandari Sharma of Rhenock, East Sikkim for sharing this valueable piece of information with me. The letter pasted here has been sent to Mr. K. B Adhikari of Rhenock by the Late Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi. It is to be noted here that, with the accession of Sikkim into India there was still  resentment among the Sikkimese people against the Indian Government for having been cheated by the authorities during the referendum process. Therefore, they were opposing Indian overlord ship upon them and were against the visits of the Indian leaders to Sikkim.
The letter dated 19th September' 1978, reflects how the Indian Tri-Colour was insulted unknowingly, as it was put up-side down, by few "miscreants"  during the visit of Mrs. Indira  Gandhi. In the letter Mrs. Gandhi has defined the act as a "deliberate". It was Mr. K. B. Adhikari a Mandal of Rhenock and an important figure of the democratic movement of Sikkim, who informed the authorities to keep the flag in the order. With the steps taken by Mr. Adhikari, a  national insult was averted in Sikkim.