The integration of India, which started in 1947, was formally completed in 1975 with the integration of Sikkim. On 16th May 1975, Sikkim officially became the state of Indian Union. Here we have discussed the brief history of Sikkim's annexation to India.
History of Sikkim:
- Before 1947: In 1642, Phuntsog Namgyal established the monarchy in Sikkim, becoming the first Chogyal(King) of Sikkim. In the 18th century, Sikkim was invaded by Bhutan and Nepal. In 1793, Chogyal reclaimed the throne with the help of China.
With the arrival of the British in neighboring India, Sikkim allied itself with them as they had a common enemy – the Gorkha Kingdom of Nepal. The infuriated Nepalese attacked Sikkim with a vengeance, overrunning most of the region including the Terai. This prompted the British East India Company to attack Nepal resulting in the Anglo-Nepalese War, which began in 1814. Treaties signed between British and Nepal – the Sugauli Treaty and Sikkim and British India – Treaty of Titalia, returned the territory annexed by the Nepalese to Sikkim in 1817.
- After 1947: On 15the August 1947, India became independent. 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.
A referendum was held in Sikkim to determine the will of the Sikkimese people. It is important to note that at the time of independence Nepali Hindus formed the majority of the population ruled by a Buddhist monarchy. Yet, Sikkim rejected joining the Indian Union, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. Sikkim came under the of India, which controlled its external affairs, defence, diplomacy and communications, but Sikkim otherwise retained administrative autonomy.
At the same time, was founded in 1947 to promote democracy and to end feudalism in Sikkim. Things were going well in the early years after independence as the then king favored closer links with India and advocated land reform and free elections. This allowed various political parties, representing different ethnic groups, to come up. One of them was Sikkim Praja Mandal formed by , who went on to become the president of Sikkim State Congress in 1953. Dorjee later met Pandit Nehru in 1954, the Indian Prime Minister promised to give assistance for the progress and economic welfare of the Sikkimese populace and assured Government of India’s support towards political reform in Sikkim.
1962 and 1965 Wars:
In 1962, India fought a war with China and in 1965, again there was a war with Pakistan. These wars highlighted the vulnerability Siliguri Corridor, famously known as Chicken Neck. In the event of a coordinated Chinese attack from Sikkim, which China claimed, and Pakistani attack from East Pakistan the two countries could isolate the North-eastern parts of India simply by gaining control of the Siliguri corridor. It became imperative to address this problem as soon as possible.
Demise of Fathers and Rise of Children:
Indian Prime Minister Nehru, who had carefully preserved Sikkim's status as an independent protectorate, died in 1964. His daughter Indira Gandhi, who became Prime Minister in 1966, would have little patience for maintaining an independent Sikkim or its monarchy. In 1968, Indira Gandhi set up Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW). It is said that R&AW played an active role in annexing Sikkim to India.
In Sikkim, the old Chogyal, Tashi Namgyal, died and was succeeded by Palden Thondup Namgyal. The new Chogyal was married to Hope Cooke, a socialite from New York. Aspiring to become the queen, she started taking the message of Sikkimese independence to the youth. It is also said that she was CIA agent.
Cho La Incident:
In 1967, the People's Republic of China sent its troops to lay claim to Sikkim, which was then a protectorate of India. The Indian Army won a decisive victory in the resulting conflict which later came to be known as the Chola incident. As a result, China withdrew its claim to Sikkim. But this incident also led to the inception of the fear of Chinese aggression.
In early 1970 the anti-monarchy Sikkim National Congress Party demanded fresh elections and greater representation for the Nepalese. In 1973, anti-royalty riots in front of the palace led to a formal request for protection from India. India worried that an unstable Sikkim would invite China to act on its claims that Sikkim was part of Tibet, and therefore part of China. The Indian government appointed a Chief administrator, Mr. B. S. Das, who effectively wrested control of the country away from the Chogyal.
Frosty relations between the Chogyal and the elected Kazi (Prime Minister) Lhendup Dorji resulted in an attempt to block the meeting of the legislature. The Kazi was elected by the Council of Ministers which was unanimous in its opposition to the retention of the Monarchy.
The Prime Minister of Sikkim appealed to the Indian Parliament for Sikkim to become a state of India. In April 1975, Indian reserve police were moved in and took control of the streets of Gangtok, Matters came to a head when Prime Minister Dorji appealed to the Indian Parliament for representation and change of status to statehood. On 14th April 1975, a referendum was held, in which 97.5% Sikkimese voted for the merge with the union of India. On 22nd April 1975, the Government of India introduced the 36th Amendment to the Constitution making Sikkim the 22nd state of India with effect from April 26.
On 16th May 1975, Sikkim officially became a state of the Indian Union and Lhendup Dorji became head of State (chief minister).