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.

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