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Home > News > Specials

The Rediff Special/ Maloy Krishna Dhar

If not for him, Sikkim wouldn't be a part of India

August 02, 2007

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I landed in Kalimpong to take charge as the sub-divisional police officer. The frontier hill station had not yet lost its charm and ambience of international intrigue. The Chinese trade mission was deserted but the presence of the exiled Afghan princes, Queen Mother Kesang of Bhutan, the Williams sisters, retired Chief Justice S R Das and scores of other VIPs added a mystical charm to my policing duties.

However, the towering giant was Kazi Lendhup Dorji Khangsarpa of Chakung and his mysteriously charming and conspiring wife Kazini Eliza Maria Khangsarpa. The international rolling stone of the late forties and early fifties had finally nestled at Kalimpong, as the Kazi Lendhup's bewitching wife and political colleague.

Tackling other VIPs including the queen mother and Afghan princes etc required the craft of diplomatic protocol and smart salutes. Kazi Lendhup mostly conversed in Nepali and the Kazini incessantly chattered in English.

Fortunately my knowledge of Nepali was as perfect as my mother tongue -- Bengali. I was a patient listener and had inculcated the habit of not interrupting the incessant torpors of the Kazini.

We clicked as we sipped thumba (brewed millet beer) and an occasional whisky. The giant dreamer from Chakung talked about democracy and people-oriented rule by the Chogyal (The Chogyal were the monarchs of the former kingdom of Sikkim. Following a referendum in 1975 monarchy was abrogated and Sikkim became an Indian state)

The Kazi was genuinely concerned about the socio-economic and political miseries of his own tribe, the Lepchas and fellow Nepalis and Limbus (Tsongs). His criticism of the style of functioning of the king and his elite Bhutia nobles was strident.

Most evenings of my bachelor days were spent at the Kazi's home, which often ended over sumptuous English, Lepcha and Nepali dishes. I was too young and inexperienced in international politics, especially the politics played by Delhi in respect to Sikkim and the political thrusts of the USA, UK directed from their bases in Calcutta and Delhi.

However, I had no trouble in understanding Kazi's genuine pining for a democratic Sikkim with the Chogyal as the figurehead king. The Kazini, however, on some unguarded moments, betrayed her ambition to become the first lady of an autonomous Sikkim with her husband as the presiding ruler.

I married in February 1968. Our first non-official visit to Sikkim was organised by Kazi Lendhup and we were hosted at the petrol pump owned by his friend. He drove us around and advised us that we should formally call on the Chogyal after I was sanctioned a formal audience by his highness. Though enwrapped by the romance of having a beautiful wife by my side I did not miss the tones of hostility.

I left Kalimpong in June 1968. The Kazis bade us goodbye with khadas (silken scarves) and a small piece of blue emerald. We returned to Sikkim in May 1975, after Sikkim's merger with India. It did not take time to revive the old acquaintance and relive certain precious moments over thumba, Kazini's incessant chatter, and Kazi's sparse dialogues in Nepali.

The Kazi (who became Sikkim's first chief minister after the state became part of India in 1975) was surrounded by political colleagues, Indian bureaucrats loaned to the Sikkim administration, media persons and fortune seekers. Perhaps, I was the only person to whom he opened his wounded heart and mind.

After Sikkim's merger with India the political office was replaced by a governor. R&AW had taken a backseat. The Intelligence Bureau, which I headed in Sikkim, was embraced by him as his direct channel of communication to Delhi. The wise politician understood that with new realities around, I was the person who could reach his words faster to political and bureaucratic bosses in Delhi.We started reliving the camaraderie that we developed in Kalimpong.

The most astounding aspect of his character was his personal integrity. He might have had accepted money from different sources for political activities. But once in power he never misused state resources and had succeeded to a great extent in restraining his greedy ministers and thieving bureaucrats.

However, the Indian political economy had a quick impact on Sikkim. The huge money-flow into Sikkim's economy was first exploited by the imported bureaucrats and very fast emulated by the local politicians and government officials. Along with democracy, India also implanted on Sikkim the cult of money-making from all conceivable spheres of governmental activities.

Kazi Lendhup often lamented the new cult but he did not have the administrative acumen to rein in his errant ministers, MLAs and bureaucrats. He earnestly believed in the socio-economic upliftment of the backward Lepcha, Nepali and Tsong population. He was in favour of extending Sikkim citizenship rights to the Nepalis and bringing them to the mainstream of Indian democracy. He even dreamt of new power stations, agro-industries, educational institutions and deriving maximum benefits from the plan-budget and grants allocated by the Government of India.

However, he faced the whirlwind of the Emergency too soon. In 1975 he was pressured by the Congress, it is alleged, especially by Sanjay Gandhi, to merge his Sikkim National Congress with the Indian National Congress. The Kazi was hesitant to abandon his 'Sikkim colours' but was forced by the governor and other bureaucrats. The same personages again forced him to merge his Congress with the Janata Party.

On both occasions I had advised him and the Kazini that they should maintain the 'Sikkim Colours' to add 'local nationalist fervour' to the new democratic system and to overcome the stigma of 'desh bechoa' (seller of the nation). The Kazi and Kazini were more than willing but they were steamrolled by the governor, his bureaucrats and Delhi.

Overnight Kazi Lendhup lost his political hold and charisma. After Indira Gandhi's [Images] return to power in 1980 he had to wait for days and weeks to have a darshan of the PM. He was discarded as a soiled political-napkin.

In their days of political exile I found him a totally disillusioned person. Instead of receiving the topmost national honour, he was forced to wait before the doors of puny politicians of the Congress party. At heart he was a Congressman.

He could have merged his SNC after about ten years of Sikkim's merger with India. By merging Sikkim with India Kazi Lendhup Dorji Khansarpa of Chakung brought new prosperity to the people of Sikkim, restored their rights and gave India a jewel in the crown studded with the silvery Kanchenjunga.

Personally he and Kazini Eliza Maria lost everything -- perhaps not really everything -- because the people of Sikkim still remember him with fondness. The illustrious Kazi expired on July 29, 2007. He did not live for personal gains; he lived for the people of Sikkim and India. However, India is yet to demonstrate that it cares for a giant who fought single-handedly against an archaic monarchy and helped India extend and secure its borders against China.

I understand his last rites will be performed at the Rumtek monastery on August 3. I fervently hope the Government of India will be magnanimous to honour this giant from Chakung in a befitting manner, overcoming political pettiness.

Maloy Krishna Dhar is a former joint director of the Intelligence Bureau.

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