Sikkim After 25 Years of Merger in India

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SIKKIM AFTER 25 YEARS OF MERGER IN INDIA King Palden Thondup Namgyal, the Chogyal of Sikkim was in his palace on the morning of 6 April, 1975 when the roar of army trucks climbing the steep streets of Gangtok brought him running to the window. There were Indian soldiers everywhere, they had surrounded the palace, and short rapid bursts of machine gun fire could be heard. Basanta Kumar Chhetri, a 19-year-old guard at the palace’s main gate, was struck by a bullet and killed-the first casualty of the takeover. The 5,000-strong Indian force didn’t take more than 30 minutes to subdue the palace guards who numbered only 243. By 12. 5 it was all over, Sikkim ceased to exist as an independent kingdom. Captured palace guards, hands raised high were packed into trucks and taken away, singing: “Dela sil, li gi, gang changka chibso” (may my country keep blooming like a flower). But by the, the Indian tri-colour had replaced the Sikkimese flag at the palace where the 12th king of the Namgyal dynasty was held prisoner. “The Chogyal was a great believer in India. He had huge respect for Mahatma Gnadhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Not in his wildest dreams did he think India would ever swallow up his kingdom,” recalls Captain Sonam Yongda, the Chogyal’s aide-de-camp. Nehru himself had told journalist Kuldip Nayar in 1960: “Taking a small country like Sikkim by force would be like shooting a fly with a rifle. ” Ironically it was Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi who cited “national interest” to make Sikkim the 22nd state in the Indian union. In the years leading up to the 1975 annexation, there was enough evidence that all was not well in relations between New Delhi and Gangtok. The seeds were sown as far back as 1947 after India gained independence, when the Sikkim State Congress started an anti-monarchist movement to introduce democracy, end feudalism and merge with India. We went to Delhi to talk to Nehru about these demands,” recalls CD Rai, a rebel leader. “He told us, we’ll help you with democracy and getting rid of feudalism, but don’t talk about merger now. ” Relenting to pressure from pro-democracy supporters, the 11th Chogyal was forced to include Rai in a five-member council of ministers, to sign a one-sided treaty with India which would effectively turn Sikkim into an Indian “protectorate”, and allow the stationing of an Indian “political officer” in Gangtok. As a leader of international tature with an anti-imperialist role on the world stage, Nehru did not want to be seen to be bullying small neighbours in his own backyard. But by 1964 Nehru had died and so had the 11th Chogyal, Sir Tashi Namgyal. There was a new breed of young and impatient political people emerging in Sikkim and things were in ferment. The plot thickened when Kaji Lendup Dorji (also known as LD Kaji) of the Sikkim National Congress, who had an ancestral feud with the Chogyal’s family, entered the fray. By 1973,

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