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.

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.