A book review
King Thondup Namgyal mostly referred as ‘Chogyal of Sikkim’ was the 12th and the last Chogyal of the Kingdom of Sikkim and his beautiful American Queen Hope Cooke the last queen of Sikkim. Chogyal Thondup’s like for alcohol was well known among his people. Andrew Duff through his extensively researched book goes into the details of the situation and annexation of Sikkim. Sikkim being faced threats from China after the annexation of Tibet by the Chinese, the Chogyal Thondup developed good relation with Indira Gandhi, then the prime minister of India and signed a treaty between the two countries. Sikkim then had been the protectorate of India, especially with the dealings of foreign affairs.
The book points out the troubles and efforts the Chogyal has put to ensure Sikkim’s identity as an independent and sovereign country reaching out internationally. Thondup through his various connections with India, US embassy and other countries had always tried to be a member of the United Nations, unfortunately Sikkim has not been able to obtain a membership in the United Nations. Thondup wanted the similar status of Bhutan as an independent country, since Bhutan had already became a member of the United Nations.
Due to geopolitical problems and the pressure from China in the north, India was concerned about the situation of Sikkim, since China seemed interested in Sikkim and other parts of country. India gradually got involved in the internal politics of Sikkim and constitutional democracy was enforced, in which the Kazi and Kazini, pro-Indian politicians gradually was gaining political power with the backup from India. Despite having treaty between the India and Sikkim, Indian involvement in Sikkim kept on increasing with the appointment of a political officer and increasing the presence of Indian military. Thondup’s power kept on diminishing and his hope for an independent nation seemed to fade away and in addition his wife the queen Hope Cooke has returned to New York. Hope Cooke also did try to help Thondup to strengthen the status of Sikkim, she also founded the Friends of Sikkim in America and also consulted many officials from the United Nations for the membership but in vain.
Soon, Sikkim got gradually flooded with immigration of Nepalese and Indian population, which made Thondup even more worried that his ethnic might turn into a minority. With the constitutional democracy in place, Kazi and the Indian appointed political officer with the help of India conducted election in Sikkim to merge Sikkim with India as an associate state. This book describes in great detail of the status of the Chogyal and the electoral processes. Majority of votes favored Sikkim to be an associate state of India and the position of Chogyal was eventually removed. Thousands of Indian military were present in Sikkim, public demonstrations were evident and the Chogyal’s palace was also surrounded the Indian armies. In 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of India despite having strong opposition from China.
This book reminds me of how fragile the smaller countries are especially when its neighbors are large and powerful. As a Bhutanese, I am very much thankful to our brave and farsighted kings.