Sikkim

Sikkim is a mountainous state of India in the Himalayas. It has borders with Tibet in the north, Bhutan in the east, Nepal in the west and the Indian state of West Bengal in the south. Its capital is Gangtok. Population: 540,493 (2001 census). Its official language is Nepali, and the predominant religion is Vajrayana Buddhism.


History

Sikkim was an ancient country in the north-east of India situated between Nepal and Bhutan. It is a land characterized by Buddhist shrines and rich cultural traditions. Its history prior to the nineteenth century was frequented by rivalries mainly with its neighbours to the east and west - the Nepalese and the Bhutanese. It survived into the nineteenth century as a thriving and prosperous Himalayan kingdom. Sikkim was an ally of Britain in the Nepalese or Gurkha War.

Relations between the government of Sikkim and the new power in India, the British East India Company, were characterized by misunderstanding. The frontier between Sikkim and British territory in India had never been firmly demarcated, and indeed, its fixation was complicated by the 1817 treaties which left key Sikkimese border villages in great uncertainty. The Sikkim government protested to the Commissioner in British India about the collection of tax in the area of Morang, but to little effect.

In 1859, a pair of British doctors Campbell and Hooker ventured into the mountains of Sikkim unannounced and unauthorized by the Chogyal (king) of Sikkim. The doctors were detained by the Sikkim government, which led to a punitive British expedition against the Himalayan kingdom in which the whole of Darjeeling and Morang were annexed, in 1861, although the kingdom continued to exist as an independent rump state centered around the capital at Gangtok.

The Chogyals of Sikkim endeavoured to modernise their state in the succeeding decades, along with their army. A state visit to Darjeeling by the Chogyal Thutob Namgyal in 1873 failed to yield such results, and he returned to Gangtok disappointed. In 1886, the British, interested in trade with Tibet, launched a brief expedition into Sikkim. The Tibetans occupied several of Sikkim's northern border forts, and the Chogyal and his wife were held prisoner by the British when they came to negotiate at Calcutta. The British established new landholdings in Sikkim, but released the Chogyal only to have him captured again in 1891.

In 1895, the Chogyal was released, but the British governors in India reneged on an agreement - the Ten Clauses Agreement - which returned sovereignty to Sikkim. The governor of British India, Claude White, refused to return any sovereignty, and only let the Choygal retain the judiciary of Sikkim.



In 1905, the Prince of Wales - the future King George V - arrived in Calcutta on a state visit at which he met the Chogyal. The two made an excellent acquaintance and the Crown Prince of Sikkim, Sidkeong Tulku was sent to study at Oxford University. When Sidkeong came to power, he arranged widened sovereignty for Sikkim from King George's government and endorsed sweeping reforms in his short rule as Chogyal, which ended in 1914.

In 1918, Sikkim's independence in all domestic affairs was restored, and in the next decade she embarked on a policy to end social ills, outlawing gambling, child labor, and indentured service. Sikkim had retained guarantees of independence from Britain when she became independent, and such guarantees were transferred to the Indian government when it gained independence in 1947, and Prime Minister Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. A state council was established in 1955 to allow for constitutional government for the Chogyal, which was sustained until 1973.

The last hereditary ruler, the Chogyal ("righteous ruler"), Palden Thondup Namgyal came to the throne in 1965. He was faced with a growing sentiment among the citizens of Sikkim that the country should join with the Indian Union; a vote in 1947 had narrowly avoided this path. The Chogyal's mismanagement led to riots in 1970, which intensified in the face of election scandals in 1973. In 1975, a pro-Union government came to power which successfully requested that India declare them an 'associate state.' The Choygal refused to recognize the move, and instead broke with his ministers and demanded their resignations. They refused, and on 10 April, they declared the Chogyal's administrative functions at an end, and declared Sikkim to be united with India, pending a referendum that would be held four days later.

On April 14, 1975, the referendum favored merging with the union of India. Sikkim became the 22nd Indian State, with a popularly elected chief minister, on April 26, 1975. The position of Chogyal was thus abolished, ending the monarchy.

The 1979 assembly election saw Nar Bahadur Bhandari being elected as the Chief Minister of Sikkim. He was returned to office in the election held in 1984 and 1989. In 1994 assembly election Pawan Kumar Chamling became the Chief Minister of Sikkim


Demographics

The demographics of Sikkim changed in the 20th century due to immigration of Nepalese, Tibetans, and individuals of other Indian ethnic groups (many of the latter being Indian-provided bureaucrats).