Some information about Sikkim
Internal situation in Sikkim
Internal situation in Sikkim
The Bhutia and Lepcha community is
formed of different clannish groups. Among the most prominent are the
Kazis, or landowners, traditionally the noble families of Sikkim. For
centuries, the Kazis exerted a great deal of influence in the region during
the centuries-old dynasty of the Choegyals (Rajas of Sikkim). Leaning
more to the middle class, are the Babus (clerks), a clan of usually educated
members but traditionally subordinate to the Kazis. The next class of
Lepcha and Bhutia are traditionally the farmers. They are usually the
uneducated segment of the community and, more often than not, manipulated
by politicians. Finally come the Nepali labourers who outnumber the Bhutia
and Lepcha by 300,000 to 95,000.
Following a revolt by the Nepali labourers, Sikkim was integrated into the union-state of India. This occurred in 1975 and, with the advent of democracy, Sikkim entered into the political stream of the Republic.
The State Government of Sikkim was
established with a 32 sed t Legislative Assembly. In order to secure and
protect the Sikkimese minority, 13 seats were reserved for the Bhutias
and Lepchas. These seats constitute more than one third of the Assembly,
and, thus whoever is to bid for power, must gain their endorsement.
Over a period of 15 years, the Babus
raked support from the commoners and pushed the Kazis, sometimes literally,
from power. Nar Bhadur Bhandari, the Chief Minister of Sikkim, at the
helm of the Sikkim Sangram Parishad Party, ruled over the minute state
with an iron fist for nearly two decades.
Among the most conspicuous members
of this SSP Parry were Karma Topden and Kunzang Sherab. They exerted a
great deal of influence and power in both their party and the State. Gradually
their family members and close friends took over jobs in important and
Topden and Sherab belonged to four
politically powerful families who contributed members to Situ Rinpoche's
"Joint Action Committee". The Joint Action Committee is comprised
of the Lharipa, Martang Topden, Kunzang Sherab and Pasang Namgyal families.
As previously stated in Chapter One, the Lharipa family hosted Gyaltsab
when he first came to Gangtok.
Topden and Sherab had managed to
snare the 13 seats reserved for the Bhutias and Lepchas. They allotted
them to people who were part of or otherwise subservient to the interests
of this group of four families. The Chief Minister and the influential
families made a deal: He gave State contracts worth a fortune to the four
families in return for the support of the 13 seats.
Back in 1983, the Martang Topden
family turned into sworn enemies of the Rumtek administration. Situ Rinpoche,
recognised" the new Gyathon Tulku within their family and, banking
on this, approached Karma Topden asking for assistance.
However, the General Secretary, Topga
Rinpoche, closed Rumtek's doors to Situ Rinpoche's crafty choice. According
to Topga Rinpoche, there was no reason to contradict the words of the
16th Gyalwa Karmapa. Nor did he need to overlook what the old Gyathon
himself had announced fifteen years earlier, that he was "The last
incarnation in the line of the Gyathons".
Creation of the
Joint Action Comittee
Karma Topden would not forgive the
General Secretary for the humiliation and perceived lack of etiquette.
When the time arrived to settle the score, Topden advised Situ Rinpoche
on how to buy support from the three other families and the Chief Minister.
Since Situ Rinpoche did not lack the funds to convince them of the advantages
of having a common goal, a coalition was born. A few years later this
would prove to be lethal to Rumtek monastery and its monks. The attack
on Rumtek Monastery on August 2nd 1993, was backed by the Joint Action
Committee. It is also with the backing of this committee that Rumtek monastery
has been forcibly occupied till today.
In the winter of 1994, the Joint
Action Committee abandoned the Sangram Parishad and joined the Congress
(1) Party instead. Recently, Kunzang Sherab has resigned as the president
of the nefarious group due to health problems. Sonam. Topden, the brother
of Karma Topden, is now at the helm of the association.
The joint Action Committee is apparently
financed by another infamous group based in Kathmandu. This group, called
the "Derge Association", was established by IN. Gyuchen in 1990.
He formally served as a minister in the Exiled Tibetan Government and
during his time in office, he was opposed to H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.
The main financial sponsor is said to be Karge who serves as a close ally
to Situ Rinpoche. The steering committee of this group are Mr. Dhonyod
Gyago, President, based in Himachal Pradesh; Kelzang Chimi, VicePresident,
from Lhasa and now based in Kathmandu; and as General Secretary stands
Mr Karge, originally from Bir, Himachal Pradesh, now residing in Kathmandu.
The families comprising the Joint
Action Committee are not naive; they are not motivated to work with Situ
and Gyaltsab Rinpoches through faith in their candidate for Gyalwa Karmapa.
As has been shown, for one of the families, revenge against the Rumtek
administration is the driving force. For the others, money is the objective.
We found a document which is a press
release from the du Department of Information & Public Relations -
Government of Sikkim Gangtok dated 6th september 1993, document n°
41/IPR/1993-94, signed by P. Thondup, joint secretary :
Mr. Karma Topden(*), M.P. has requested
in a letter written to the Prime Minister, M. P.V. Narasimha Rao to discuss
with the Chinese authorities the question of soliciting the visit of H.H.
the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa from Tsurphu (Tibet) to his centre at Rumtek at
soonest possible. The letter written on the eye of the visit of the Prime
Minister to China states that the devotees of His Holiness, both within
and outside Sikkim, are very anxious to see the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa come
to Rumtek so they may receive his blessing there (
The more interesting
In the same letter M. Tobden has
urged the Prime Minister to take up with the Chinese authorities the question
of opening border trade between India and China through the Sikkim - Tibet
border. He has expressed his confidence that this border trade, if restarted
from this traditional route, would help to boost the economy of the State
of Sikkim which in the present day trend of market economy and liberalisation
suffer from locational disadvantages. It may be recalled that Mr. Karma
Topden has on several occasions in the past written to Prime Minister
stressing on the need to open the border trade between Sikkim and Tibet,
where at one time a flourishing trade existed.
(*)Karma Topden is a JAC's member.
Following unrest in the area, Sikkim
was annexed to India in 1975. In the past, it had always had continuous
ties with Tibet and other himalayan countries (Nepal, Bhutan). JAC members'
intent would be to renew these ties with Tibet (meaning China), whence
the motivation to build a relationship with the Chinese.