Prior to 1970, Sikkim was an independent state, ruled by the Chogyal or king. But a kingdom that shared boundaries with China, India, Bhutan and Nepal, could not keep outside influences away for long. India had lost the Indo-China war less than a decade back in 1962, and it knew keeping away the Chinese influence was essential for its own well-being.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi thought it was important to have a hold over Sikkim, the tiny kingdom on India’s Himalayan borders, because that was one sure shot way of securing India’s border from future Chinese incursions.
But the Sikkim-India merger was far from a peaceful event. PM Indira Gandhi saw that Sikkim was a fertile ground to sow dissent. The Chogyal was not ready to grant the “one-man-one-vote” demand of the Nepali community, a huge majority in the kingdom. Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal tried to assert his authority, and importantly, he wanted to free Sikkim from India’s stifling control.
Simply put, the king wanted no interference in protecting the political, economic and cultural interests of the original settlers of the land ─ Buddhist Sikkimese ─ from the burgeoning population of immigrant from the neighbouring Himalayan kingdoms of Bhutan and Nepal.
In 1947, a popular vote for Sikkim to join India failed and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim, with the condition that India will control its external defence, diplomacy and communication.
A year before the Chogyal ascended the throne, Nehru passed away. And with the death of Nehru, the dynamics changed. Moreover, his marriage to Hope Cooke, an American in 1963, put the king in a difficult position. He was accused of conspiring with the Chinese. His American wife added another conspiracy angle — she was rumoured to have had CIA links.
India hatched a plan to take over Sikkim in 1971, and in the following two years, RAW made sure that they created a ripe condition to strike. They instigated the predominantly-Hindu Sikkimese, who complained of discrimination from the Buddhist Chogyal. And soon, Sikkimese people rose against their king.
Allegedly, Indian Army men would come in disguise to shout in protest. Sikkim National Congress leader Kazi Lhendup Dorjee led the fight against the Chogyal protest movement, propped up by Indian aid. The Indian IB and RAW made sure the money reached the right hands to keep the protest going.
The Chogyal caved under tremendous pressure, and held tripartite talks with SNC and India, which made the royal power almost redundant. Eventually, Lhendup’s SNC won with landslide majority in the 1974 elections, and that spelled doom for the Sikimese king. By March 1975, monarchy was ablosihed in Sikkim, the parliament proposed of the state becoming a part of India.
But that was not the end of ordeal for a monarch. Life for deposed Chogyal was never the same. He was hounded by RAW agents all over the places, wherever he went, Delhi, Calcutta and Gangtok until his death in 1982.
Soon after the merger, pro-India Sikkimese leaders realised that this was not what they had asked for. For they had lost much more than they had gained in an effort to beat their own king.