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16th May 1975: The Kingdom of Sikkim and its Annexation with India



Who Planned the Sikkim Annexation by India? Sikkim, as we know today, is a beautiful part of the Northeastern region of India. But the history of Sikkim goes back to 1642 when Sikkim was not a part of India and was then an independent Kingdom, ruled by the monarchs. On 16th May 1975, Sikkim became a part of India followed by revisions to the Indian constitution to accommodate the earlier international treaties between India and Sikkim.

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The annexation of Sikkim by India is noted as a historical event, that changed both forever. The process of annexing the two had started much earlier but it was on 16th May 1975 that the official annexation was documented.

Before the annexation of Sikkim by India and much before the disputes between India-China and the Tibet region, the Himalayan Kingdom, already enjoyed a rich past and a dynamic culture. The monarchy and its first mentions date back to the Indian mythological stories and versions.

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The History of Sikkim

One of the very first mentions of the kingdom is in Hindu mythology, with Lord Shiva appearing as a hunter at the Kirateshwar temple in Western Sikkim region. Following the dispute between the Yellow and Red Hats in Tibet, back in the 17th century, the Bhutias Tibetan community was forced to Sikkim for refuge.

In 1642, the kingdom got it’s very first Chogyal, the King, consecrated by the three great lamas of the South, West and North region to Western Sikkim. The king and the three lamas proceeded to annex the Chumbi Valley, what we call Darjeeling today and also parts of the East of Nepal. The Chogyal then appointed 12 ministers and divided the kingdom into 12 different administrations. Although the disputes between the Tibetan communities- Bhutia, Lepchas, Limbus and Magars continued for a long time, the Magars soon left the kingdom after being defeated in a battle.

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The Kingdom existed in peace for a long time, before the invasion of Nepal and Bhutan disrupted the peace. However, when the British rule came to India, Sikkim allied with India against the common enemy- Nepal. This was followed by an attack by Nepal on Sikkim and then the retaliatory Anglo-Nepalese war beginning in 1814

Annexation of Sikkim by British India

After the signing of the treaties between Nepal and the British, the British looked forward to a trade route with links in Tibet. This new trade route was to be an offshoot to the Silk Road that ran through the kingdom. The need for this new trade route was also expected to curb the growing influence of Russia in Tibet. The Sikkim-India ties weakened after the British levied new taxation norms in the Morang region. This was followed by more weakening of ties after the British secured the cessation of Darjeeling in 1835 to British Sikkim. However, independent kingdom of Sikkim continued to exist alongside the British Sikkim.

In 1918, the kingdom restored its independent status with a guarantee from the British rule, which was then transferred to the Indian government after Indian independence in 1947.

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While India was under the British rule, Sikkim was an independent kingdom with a sovereign status. Before the India-China war of 1962, India and the kingdom had an agreement where the kingdom was an ‘Indian Protectorate’ and Delhi managed the international affairs, defence and communication for the kingdom, while it continued to be an independent kingdom. This agreement was signed by the then ruler of Sikkim, Chogyal Tashi, and former PM Jawaharlal Nehru.

Post the India-China war, the scenario changed, as the Nathula pass that joined the kingdom and Tibet was under a continuous state of war. The kingdom then became a security hazard for the Indian government. It was in 1972 that the modification of the kingdom’s status was suggested as ‘permanent association’. This was the turning point and, and the beginning of India’s efforts to annex the kingdom of Sikkim. The decision was met with public unrest and a lot of disputes and cry for peace, before the final annexation of Sikkim by India.

On 14 April 1975, a referendum was held, in which Sikkim voted to merge with India. Sikkim became the 22nd Indian State and on 16 May 1975, and Sikkim officially became an Indian state.

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