SIKKIM: Fairy Tale's End

Monday, May. 05, 1975,9171,913029,00.html?iid=digg_share
Ten years ago, when Prince Palden Thondup Namygal was crowned Chogyal (King) of Sikkim, his young wife, Sarah Lawrence Graduate Hope Cooke, became "Queen of the Happy Valley" and "Consort of Deities." Together they pledged to make the tiny storybook kingdom "a paradise on earth." They also hoped to make Sikkim, an Indian protectorate since 1950, more economically and politically independent. That was a fairy tale not to be. Last week India's Parliament voted to make Sikkim India's 22nd state. It was the last act of a sequence that saw Sikkim's 300-year-old monarchy abolished, and the once internationally glamorous King and Queen of Sikkim become Mr. and Mrs. Namygal, citizens of India.
The process of annexation actually began in April 1973, when the Chogyal asked Indian troops to help control demonstrators who were threatening to storm his palace in Gangtok. The riots stemmed from a controversy over the nation's electoral procedures—a system that inadequately represented the settlers from neighboring Nepal, who make up 75% of Sikkim's population of 210,000. India subdued the demonstrators —whom they may have instigated in the first place—and then pressured the Chogyal into accepting a constitutional agreement that virtually stripped him of all power.
In elections supervised by India in April 1974, candidates from the anti-Chogyal, pro-India Sikkim National Congress party won 30 of 32 seats in the new Sikkim Assembly. According to the Indian tally, even areas that had solidly supported the Chogyal a year earlier voted overwhelmingly for his opposition. The newly elected Assembly's first act was to submit a resolution calling for closer ties with New Delhi. Three weeks ago, the Assembly voted to abolish the monarchy and merge completely with India. The Assembly hastily organized a referendum and within 72 hours announced that the people of Sikkim had voted to relinquish their sovereignty by the suspiciously top-heavy margin of 59,637 to 1,496. Although there was little debate before the act of union was rushed through India's Parliament last week, one opponent of the bill did charge India's Foreign Minister Y.B. Chavan with behaving like "a very apt pupil of the British."
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who has repeatedly excoriated other nations for similar interventions, explained the annexation by simply observing that the people of Sikkim want it that way. Some observers argue, however, that New Delhi simply wanted to tighten its grip on an area it feels crucial to its defense. Sikkim is a buffer between India and Chinese-controlled Tibet.
The final humiliation came to the former Chogyal, who is under house arrest, when security police searched his palace last week and confiscated his ham radio on the grounds that he was operating it without a license. Hope Namygal, who took refuge in Manhattan shortly after the 1973 uprising, says that she is "gravely concerned about the safety of the Chogyal and the many Sikkimese nationals who have tried to save their country's identity."

Pre- Historic Sikkim

No authentic literatures are available regarding the pre historic period of Sikkim, nor has it so far allured the archeologists to study it. Therefore, the pre historic Sikkim is in obscurity. The only sources to understand the pre history of Sikkim are very limited literatures and the oral traditions practiced by the old and traditional people of Sikkim. Further, no researcher has undertaken the task of understanding the ancient history of Sikkim. Western scholars and their Indian counterparts maintain the view that Sikkim was no politically united and it was not a single political unit till 1642, when Phuntsog Namgyal was consecrated as the first Chogyal of Sikkim at Yoksam in West Sikkim. Even after that, Sikkim remained as an isolated country. Sikkim has come out from her isolation only after her contacts with the British East India Company. Hence, some western scholars, who were then in a good relation with the Sikkim palace had taken the initiative to write the history of Sikkim. Even they had maintained a partial view about the early history of the country and the pre history of Sikkim was therefore, neglected. Further, it was obvious that the Chogyals had provided them the information only about their ascendency, or in other sense, the rulers and their aristocrats themselves did not possessed much knowledge about the early history of Sikkim. Thus, the ancient history of Sikkim has been a dark corner of the world in spite of its proximity of two of the oldest civilizations i.e. Indian and Chinese.
The legendary account of the Pre- Historic Sikkim reveals that there were no establishments of settled governments. A number of petty rulers or more appropriately the chiefs were ruling over these areas in different period of time. By around 4,000 B.C. the Neolithic human developed the art of land cultivation due to scarcity of available food. Agriculture required people to stay in one spot and so fixed settlement emerged. According to the legend of the Kiratas, the black soybean was the first crop, domesticated and cultivated by the Kiratas in this part of the country. The lone cultivated crop was thus eaten in a different ways to avoid monotonousness of eating. Thus, they eat as raw, boiled with pods, dry frying, crushing, fermenting inclusive of famous Kinema. The area was very rich in flora and faunal diversity. Later on a number of crops were added up through domestication of wild plants and through plant introduction.
Eventually, after analyzing semantic names of places, rivers, lakes and mountains through anthropological, geographical and cultural studies and the consultation of the Mun Boongthing (the Lepcha Priest) reflects that the Lepchas are the most primitive and autochthons race of Sikkim. It is presumed that more than 3000 B.C. the Lepchas had installed the “stairway to heaven” of clay pot at present day’s Daramdin in west Sikkim. During the ascendancy of the Lepchas, Sikkim was known as “Mayal- Lyang” or the land of hidden treasures and it is known for being administered by Thekong Adek, Rujo-Melong-dang, Tarvey Panu, Tarsong Panu, Tar-Eng- Panu and Panu Mun Solong. After the blood brotherhood treaty between Khey Bumsa and Thekong Tek, the Bhutias also slowly migrated to the present area of Sikkim.
The geographical extent of Sikkim under the Lepcha sovereignty was widely extended. It is been assumed that the region of present day Nepal and Bhutan was the part of Sikkim and in the south it was flourished till Malda in present West Bengal. Further, the Chumbi valley of Tibet was also a part of ancient Sikkim. The original inhabitants of Chumbi valley in Tibet were also the Lepchas. Heybum Panu or Dungpemsar was the chieftain and his capital was at Chumbi. Meanwhile, the struggle between the followers of ‘Red Hats’ and the ‘Yellow Hats’ of Buddhism in Tibet forced the Lepchas of Chumbi to take refuge in Sikkim and other places. The Limbuwana, which was known to the Nepalese as Pallo Kirat (far away Kirat), was also a part of ancient Sikkim.
Apart from the Lepchas, the Limbus were also ruling a part of Sikkim in the west, before the supremacy of Tibetans over the land of Sikkim was established. The Limbu is a tribe which is equally found in the Eastern Nepal and Sikkim. According to their old traditions, which they call Mundhum it is said that when the pioneer Lamas of Tibet visited Sikkim, for the first time, a tribe who revered the Kalog Lama as their Guru, followed him from Tsang province of Tibet. But, the Gorkhas call them Limbus. They first settle down in the banks of the Arun River, right down to Kankai. The headman used to be called as Subahs. They have 10 sub divisions, call Thars and they call themselves as 10 Limbus or Dus Tharey Limbus. Again mode of differentiating is by grouping themselves into local blocks called Thums. Of this too there are 10 Thums or Dus Thums and another group of 17 Thums or Satra Thums. All these Thums of the Limbus were all absorbed in the Gorkha kingdom later6.
Along with the Lepchas and the Limbus, another tribe known as Magar was also ruling a part of West Sikkim. They were ruling over the tracts of Mangsari and Magarjong in Soreng sub division of modern West Sikkim. The Magar king Santu Pati Sen, (who is referred as Hindu Pati in the History of Sikkim, written by the Maharaja Thotub Namgyal and Maharani Yeshey Dolma, Pg 22), fought with the Tibetan force to oppose the Tibetan supremacy and was killed in the battle. His wife also invited the Tibetan force at the last rite of her husband and many Tibetans were killed with poisoned alcoholic drink. But, it seems that, the Magar Raja was a tolerant ruler, who had a great respect towards the other religions as well. The mNga- bDag Lama, a Tibetan saint , who met the Magar Raja, was regarded by the latter as his Guru Purohit and a piece of land in the plains containing 100 Kakodhari Raiyat was given to the Lama as a permanent gift or Dana. Thus, the war which was fought by the Magar Raja Santu Pati Sen against the Tibetans was purely a political one. He did not want to accept the overlord ship of the Tibetans as the Lepchas and the Limbus of Sikkim accepted and which led for the foundation of Tibetan supremacy in Sikkim.