Jaharman Rai: The unsung Hero of Sikkimese History

Late Jaharman Rai
The ordinary people have always played an indispensable part for the development of human society by producing agricultural items, rendering free services for the constructive works of a state and by providing forced labour. Further, by paying tax and rent of the land and agricultural products they make a greater contribution for the economic prosperity of a country. Being the nucleus of human development, the peasants in particular and ordinary people in general, who are always in a larger number, have never been treated at par. It is not only a case of a particular province or a state or a country, injustice against the peasant is a phenomenon which is rampant in every nook and corner of the world. The pricks, pains and the wounds the peasants have been subjected to in the past are simply irreparable which are very much similar throughout the globe. Their service to mankind in general and their Landlords or the Kings in particular, the burden of taxation upon them, the yoke of forced labour on their shoulders share a similar nature and feature throughout the earth. Amidst their large contribution, they have been frequently ignored not only by the authorities in the past but by history as well. Further, history of ordinary people which also covers resistance made by the peasants is always regarded as a sundry event by the contemporary historians. This is the major reason why the hardships of the peasants in the past have not got their mention in the pages of history. To quote Howard Zinn “...not only to the orthodox history of those years, but to the very idea of history told from the point of view of the authorities- a history confined to the “important” people that ignores the struggle of ordinary people”. In reality, it is an irony to monitor that human society is driven by a marginal force. It may be in the case of chieftaincies or later in the case of large empires; the majority have always been administered by the minority. In a truer sense, the suppression of the voices of the powerless or the marginalized, which always form the major group, continues even in today’s so called democratic set-up. The government, which is in minority, hardly bothers to listen what the majority are asking for and arrangements for settling the dilemma that occurs frequently between the minority governed state and majority of interests is seldom seen.
Late Rai on Second Row L-R during the construction of Sikkim House in New Delhi
Hence, being a student of history, this is my unpretentious attempt to bring into light about those unseen heroes of Sikkim who have contributed a lot for the erstwhile kingdom but are forgotten by the pages of History. I prefer to articulate them as the Unsung Heroes of our society, which was a composition of the ordinary people and peasants, and that never made any headlines in the leading newspapers and journals to drag the attention of the elites. For me, they are the real contributors, the altruistic and the most selfless human folks who played an important part in the development of Sikkimese society by dint of their labour and hard works.
Late Jaharman Rai was also a son of an ordinary Sikkimese peasant of Tinzir Busty at Namchi in South Sikkim. Born on 2 July 1915, Late Rai was the youngest child of Late Ashdhan Rai. After the death of his father, Late Jaharman Rai took up the task of tax collector under Lahso Kazi and later under Tenzing Wangdel Lahso. After witnessing the deplorable condition of the peasants during his service, he made his mind to resign from the job. The condition of Sikkimese peasantry thence was at a wretched stage, where they not only had to pay the tax but also had to carry Kalobhari and Jharlangi, the most crooked system devised by the Colonial Government. When the peasants failed to pay their taxes, their household items were auctioned of which they could not object as they were under the strict surveillance of the Kazis and the Zamindars, the self-styled super class of the erstwhile Sikkim.  
When the level of repression reached beyond the tolerance of the ordinary Sikkimese, they founded the first ever political party of Sikkim which was known as Rajya Praja Sammelan. This party, though it lacks agenda and ideology, is regarded as the first political party of the erstwhile Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim. Late Jaharman Rai joined this party and became an active cadre. Later, the Praja Sammelan along with other two political parties namely, Praja Mandal and Praja Parishad was united to form Sikkim State Congress in December 1947. After the foundation of Sikkim State Congress, Late Rai continued to play an important part to ignite the slumbered minds of Sikkimese peasantry. He became the Secretary of Namchi branch of Sikkim State Congress for achieving the determined goal of democracy in the Kingdom. His correspondence with Late Pratiman Rai, Late Kashiraj Pradhan and Late Jainarayan Sapkota reveals his active participation in the people’s movement that was launched by Sikkim Sate Congress. Further, Late Jaharman Rai had also played a key role in raising party fund for the Sikkim State Congress.
Lhaksam Shabdek Badhar- The Silver Medal presented by the Chogyal of Sikkim
Apart from the politics, Jaharman Rai is also remembered for his philanthropic works at Namchi. Due to utter poverty he could not get his formal education and learnt to write in Nepali in bamboo tablets as a shepherd. Therefore, to annihilate such hurdles in education, he managed a night school at Tinjir which is now raised up to a Junior High School. Further, in the unparalleled landslides occurred from 3rd to 5th October 1968, which is popular in Sikkim as adshat shaal ko pairo, Late Rai had given refuge to many of his co-villagers in his house. He arranged Government help in the form of edibles, household items and beddings for the affected people of the catastrophe. It was under his guidance and initiative the citizens of Tinzir and Kamrang, reconstructed the brush off roads between Jorethang, Melli and Gangtok after the catastrophe. Recognising his social services, the Chogyal of Sikkim Late Palden Thondup Namgyal rewarded him with the Service Medal (Lhaksam Shabdek Badhar) in 1969.
Further, Late Jaharman Rai was a skilled craftsman, whose dexterity is visible at the Old Sikkim House, New Delhi which was known as Sikkim Residency before its merger with India. Still one can notice the huge sign board of “Sikkim Residency” in front of the Old Sikkim House. Most of the wooden works there is the creation of Late Jaharman Rai. In 1971, he led a group of Sikkimese craftsmen to give a typical Sikkimese look to the Residency.
Though he passed away in 2009, at the age of 94, his works are still alive at the Old Sikkim House helping the mainstream people to understand Sikkim in a better way. Sikkim is always proud of having such ordinary, but significant characters in its past. The history of ordinary people is also thus important like the history of “essential” people and their contribution should never be underestimated.