Headline : Explained: Sikkim, from Chogyal rule to Indian state
- Recently, Sikkim’s longest serving Chief Minister, Pawan Chamling, became the sole elected Opposition representative in the Assembly after the remaining 12 Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) MLAs defected, with 10 joining the BJP and another two joining the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM).
Context of the topic:
- The current political instability follows a unique event: the voting out of a government in power for the first time in Sikkim’s history.
- However, since joining India in 1975, Sikkim has seen its government changed only twice and in both cases, the government had fallen before the new one was voted in.
- The current events has been described as a departure from monarchic psychology to strengthening democracy.
Theme of the Topic: The topic gives a background on the transition of Sikkim from monarchy to full Indian statehood.
In Focus: History of Sikkim
Sikkim under Chogyal rule:
- Sikkim was under the rule of Chogyals (or kings) of the Namgyal dynasty of Tibetan descent for 333 years before 1975.
- The first ruler of Sikkim, Penchu Namgyal, was installed as king by Tibetan lamas in 1642.
- At its zenith, the Sikkim kingdom included the Chumbi valley and Darjeeling. However, after 1706, there were a series of conflicts between the powers of the region, which included Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet, resulting in a shrinking of Sikkim’s territorial boundaries.
Alliance with East India Company (EIC):
- In 1814, Sikkim allied with the East India Company (EIC) in the EIC’s campaign against Nepal.
- In reward, Company restored to Sikkim some of the territories that Nepal had wrested from it in 1780.
EIC purchased Darjeeling
- In 1841, the Company purchased Darjeeling from the Namgyal rulers.
Treaty of Tumlong of 1861:
- The Treaty of Tumlong effectively made Sikkim a de facto protectorate of the British India.
Anglo-Chinese Convention, 1890:
- The Convention also known as Calcutta Convention demarcated the border between Sikkim and Tibet, and was signed by Viceroy Lord Lansdowne and Qing China’s Imperial Associate Resident in Tibet.
- Later, the Lhasa Convention of 1904 affirmed the Calcutta Convention.
Indo-Sikkim Treaty, 1950:
- Under the Indo-Sikkim Treaty of 1950, Sikkim was to become a protectorate of the Indian Government while maintaining its autonomy.
Formation of Sikkim State Congress:
- The gaping income inequality and feudal control over key resources led to popular discontent against the Chogyal rulers.
- In December 1947, diverse political groupings came together to form the Sikkim State Congress.
- In 1949, the Chogyal agreed to appoint a five-member Council of Ministers, with three Congress nominees, and two of his own.
Introduction of a new Constitution and elections in the state:
- In 1953, the Chogyal introduced a new Constitution, and four general elections were held based on separate electorates in 1957, 1960, 1967, and 1970.
- However, plagued by distrust between the Chogyal and the Congress, none of these elections helped further democracy.
Break down of law and order:
- In the early 1970s, violent protests took place in the state, demanding a more democratic constitution for Sikkim, as well as more powers for the elected representatives.
- This led to a breakdown of law and order in the princely state.
May 8 Agreement of 1973:
- This was an agreement entered into by the Chogyal, the Government of India and leaders of the political parties of Sikkim following complete breakdown of the law and order situation.
- Both the demands of the agitators (i.e. “a more democratic constitution” and “greater legislative and executive powers for the elected representatives of the people”) were provided in the Agreement.
- In addition, the Indian Government was “requested” to take “responsibility” for law and order and appoint a chief executive or head of administration in Sikkim.
- Elections on the basis of one-man one-vote were introduced.
- The Indian chief executive held complete administrative authority.
- If any difference of opinion rose between him and the Chogyal, it was to be “referred to the political officer in Sikkim, who shall obtain the advise of the Government of India, which shall be binding”.
New Government in state:
- In 1974, elections were held, in which the Congress led by Kazi Lhendup Dorji emerged victorious over pro-independence parties.
Abolition of institution of the Chogyal:
- In 1974, a new constitution was also adopted, which restricted the role of the Chogyal to a titular post.
- The Chogyal resented this, and refused to deliver the customary address to the elected Assembly.
Protectorate to associated State
- Also, in 1974, India upgraded Sikkim’s status from protectorate to “associated state”, allotting to it one seat each in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
Referendum in 1975:
- The Chogyal was unhappy with this move, and sought to internationalise the issue. This did not go down well with Sikkim’s elected leaders, and a referendum was held in 1975.
- A total 59,637 voted in favour of abolishing the monarchy and joining India, with only 1,496 voting against.
- Subsequently, India’s Parliament approved an amendment to make Sikkim a full state.
Special Constitutional provisions regarding Sikkim:
- Article 371(F) of the Constitution, provides special status to the Sikkim.
The important Special Provisions include:
- It states that the Legislative Assembly shall consist of not less than 30 members.
- In order to protect the rights and interests of the different sections of the population in the state of Sikkim, seats in the assembly are provided to people of these different sections.
- The Governor shall have special responsibility for peace and equitable arrangement for ensuring the social and economic advancement of different sections of the population of Sikkim.
- The Governor of Sikkim shall, subject to such directions as the President may, from time to time, deem fit to issue, act in his discretion
- Neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall have jurisdiction in respect of any dispute or other matter arising out of any treaty, agreement, engagement or other similar instrument relating to Sikkim.
Section : Polity & Governance