Gangtok, May 16: Sikkim, nestled in the Himalayas, celebrates its statehood day on May 16 each year to commemorate its integration with India as the 22nd state. Let’s delve into the fascinating journey of Sikkim’s transformation from a kingdom to a state of India.

The Kingdom of Sikkim

In the seventeenth century, the Namgyal dynasty established the Kingdom of Sikkim. In 1890, it became a protectorate of the British Empire, with the Chogyal serving as the Buddhist priest-king.

Sikkim statehood

Sikkim’s Unique Status

After India gained independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru decided to maintain Sikkim’s distinct protectorate status. India assumed responsibility for Sikkim’s external affairs, defense, diplomacy, and communications, while preserving its administrative autonomy.

Sikkim statehood

State Council and People’s Agitation

To introduce constitutional rule, a state council was formed in 1953. Simultaneously, the Sikkim National Congress demanded fresh elections, leading to strained relations between the monarchy and the people. In 1973, a popular agitation against the monarchy was spearheaded by Kazi Lhendup Dorji, a former Sikkim Council member. The unrest escalated, culminating in riots outside the Chogyal’s palace.

Sikkim statehood

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Agreement with India and Democratic Reforms

In response to the deteriorating situation, the Chogyal officially sought security assistance from India. Subsequently, a tripartite agreement was signed between the kingdom, India, and three major political parties, outlining the introduction of democratic reforms.

Sikkim statehood

Elections and New Constitution

In 1974, the Congress, led by Kazi Lhendup Dorji, emerged victorious in the legislative elections. A new constitution was adopted, limiting the Chogyal’s role to a titular position. Meanwhile, the Indian government designated Sikkim as an “associated state” and granted it representation in both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.

Sikkim statehood

Referendum and Statehood

In 1975, the Sikkim Prime Minister submitted a petition to the Indian Parliament, requesting Sikkim’s full statehood. The Indian Army disarmed the guards at the Chogyal’s palace and assumed control of Gangtok in April that year. Subsequently, a referendum was conducted, indicating the majority’s desire to abolish the monarchy and join India.

Formation of Sikkim as a State

On May 16, Sikkim became a state of India, and the monarchy was abolished. The Indian Parliament amended the Constitution to accommodate the formation of a new state. The 36th Amendment solidified Sikkim’s status as a full-fledged state and included its name in the Constitution’s First Schedule.

Sikkim’s journey from a Himalayan kingdom to the 22nd state of India is a remarkable tale of political evolution and democratic reforms. Its integration with India on May 16 is celebrated each year, signifying the harmonious union between Sikkim and the rest of the country. Sikkim’s statehood stands as a testament to the spirit of cooperation, mutual respect, and inclusivity, which form the foundations of India’s diverse and vibrant nationhood.