On This Day In History: May 16, 1975 – Sikkim becomes a part of Indian territory

On this day, May 16, 1975, the state of Sikkim was included into the Indian Territory. Sikkim, which is the least populous and second smallest among the Indian states, is a part of Eastern Himalaya range and is popular for its biodiversity. It is also the home of Kanchenjunga Mountain, which is the highest mountain peak in India as well as the third highest in the world.

In pre-independence era, Sikkim enjoyed a ‘sovereign status’ with the protection of British government against neighbouring nations China and Nepal. This ‘subordinate alliance’ of Sikkim with British was also carried out after the independence of India in 1947. India signed an agreement with Sikkim’s then ruler Chogyal Tashi Namgyal, according to which Sikkim was to be treated as a ‘tributary of India’ and India would manage its foreign affairs, communication and defence. Thus, Sikkim remained an independent monarchy.

However, the situation changed after the India-China war in 1962 and control of Sikkim became an important matter for India to control Chinese activities. The Nathula pass in Sikkim became a common battleground for Indian and Chinese troops due to which it had to be closed.  Nathula Pass generated a sense of fear among the Indian government and it considered Sikkim to be a security problem. Also, the people of Sikkim were against the on-going Monarchy rule and there were anti-government protests and demonstrations against the ruler Palden Thondup Namgyal.

So. in 1972, the then Indian Prime Minister Indian Gandhi suggested to change Sikkim’s status from ‘special protectorate’ to ‘permanent association’ to have full sovereign rights over the Himalayan kingdom. After a public referendum in Sikkim, 97.5% of its people supported end of monarchy and it paved the way for Sikkim’s entry into India. On 16th May, 1975, the kingdom of Sikkim became the part of Indian territory and was the 22nd state of India with complete democratic rights and privileges. Kazi Lhendup Dorjee became the first Chief Minister of the newly formed state.

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