North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

How Sikkim became a part of India?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : States reorganization

Mains level : Read the attached story

It was on May 16, 1975 that Sikkim became 22nd state of the Union of India.

Why in news?

  • While in many modern narratives, the tale of the former kingdom under the Namgyal dynasty acquiring Indian statehood begins in decades close to the 1970s.
  • The real story, according to experts, can only be understood by tracing the events back to 1640s when Namgyal rule was first established.

Sikkim’s accession into India: A complete timeline

(1) Attacks during Namgyal Rule

  • Beginning with Phuntsog Namgyal, the first chogyal (monarch), the Namgyal dynasty ruled Sikkim until 1975.
  • At one point, the kingdom of Sikkim included the Chumbi valley (part of China now) and Darjeeling.
  • In the early 1700s, the region saw a series of conflicts between Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet, which resulted in a shrinking of Sikkim’s territorial boundaries.

(2) Under East India Company

  • When the British arrived, their expansion plans in the Indian subcontinent included controlling the Himalayan states.
  • The kingdom of Nepal, meanwhile, continued with its attempts to expand its territory.
  • This resulted in the Anglo-Nepalese war (November, 1814 to March, 1816), also known as the Gorkha war, which was fought between the Gorkhali army and the East India Company.
  • Both sides had ambitious expansion plans for the strategically important mountainous north of the Indian subcontinent.
  • In 1814, Sikkim allied with the East India Company in the latter’s campaign against Nepal.
  • The Company won and restored to Sikkim some of the territories that Nepal had wrested from it in 1780.

(3) Administrative control of British

  • A turning point in the history of Sikkim involves with the appointment of John Claude White as Political Officer of Sikkim.
  • Sikkim by then was a British Protectorate under the Treaty of Tumlong signed in March, 1861.
  • As with most of the Indian subcontinent that the British had under their administrative control, the kingdom of Sikkim, although a protectorate, had little choice in the administration of its own kingdom.
  • The Namgyal monarch could not criticise decisions made by the British, but the ruler did complain about this influx of Nepali migrants into the kingdom.

(4) Scenario after 1947

  • Three years after India’s Independence in 1947, Sikkim became a protectorate of India.
  • In 1950, a treaty was signed between the then Sikkim monarch Tashi Namgyal and India’s then Political Officer in Sikkim, Harishwar Dayal.
  • A clause in the treaty read: “Sikkim shall continue to be a Protectorate of India and, subject to the provisions of this Treaty, shall enjoy autonomy in regard to its internal affairs.”

(5) Chinese invasion of Tibet

  • China’s invasion of Tibet in 1949 and Nepal’s attacks on Sikkim throughout the kingdom’s history were cited as reasons why the kingdom needed the support and protection of a powerful ally.
  • Further, the talk of persecution of Tibetans after China’s arrival at the scene generated fear of the possibility of Sikkim suffering a similar fate.

(6) Dalai Lama’s Arrival

  • In March 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet.
  • After the Dalai Lama reached Indian borders, he and his entourage settled at the Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • A month later, he travelled to Mussoorie, where he met then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to discuss the future of the Tibetan refugees who had travelled with him.
  • The repercussions of India’s decision to welcome and give refuge to the Dalai Lama sent a message to some in Sikkim that unlike China, aligning with India would guarantee their protection and security.
  • This was the perspective of the ruling elite in Sikkim.

(7) Public discontent against monarchy

  • The period between the 1950s and the 1970s marked growing discontent in Sikkim.
  • Primarily, there was anger against the monarchy because of growing inequality and feudal control.
  • Anti-monarchy protests grew in 1973, following which the royal palace was surrounded by thousands of protesters.
  • Indian troops arrived after the monarch was left with no choice but to ask New Delhi to send assistance.
  • Finally, a tripartite agreement was signed in the same year between the chogyal, the Indian government, and three major political parties, so that major political reforms could be introduced.

(8) Attempts for constitutional development

  • A year later, in 1974, elections were held, where the Sikkim State Congress led by Kazi Lhendup Dorji won, defeating pro-independence parties.
  • That year, a new constitution was adopted, which restricted the role of the monarch to a titular post, which Palden Thondup Namgyal bitterly resented.
  • In the same year, India upgraded Sikkim’s status from protectorate to “associated state”, allotting to it one seat each in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
  • Opposed to the move, the monarch attempted to bring international attention to it soon after.

(9) Finally accession into India

  • A referendum was held in 1975 where an overwhelming majority voted in favour of abolishing the monarchy and joining India.
  • A total 59,637 voted in favour of abolishing the monarchy and joining India, with only 1,496 voting against.
  • Sikkim’s new parliament, led by Kazi Lhendup Dorjee, proposed a bill for Sikkim to become an Indian state, which was accepted by the Indian government.


Also try this PYQ:

Q.The latitudes that pass through Sikkim also pass through:

(a) Rajasthan

(b) Punjab

(c) Himachal Pradesh

(d) Jammu & Kashmir


Post your answers here.
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