Book review ” Sikkim: Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom” by Andrew Duff

Review by Vipul Murarka

I had never thought that I would read a book that will be non-fiction but will seem like fiction. That is Sikkim: A requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom for you. It has been wonderfully written by Andrew Duff who has a connection with this state which made him go to Sikkim to find out its story.

This book is a classic example of one that could be made into a movie. It has all the essence of a movie – Love Story, Patriotism, Politics, Religion, Dominance of two big Nations, war, peace, communal riots – I can go on and on. The book features all of this and yet it is in the nonfiction category.

Probably many of us would know about India’s annexation of Sikkim, but what all was happening during that time in this Himalayan state is usually masked from us. This book throws a light exactly about that. I am not sure what made me pick this book. I was not too much interested in knowing the history of this state, neither have I been there nor do I have any connection with Sikkim. But I am glad that I was able to read this beautiful biography of Sikkim and learnt so many things about the state, about India at the time after independence.

The best part of the book for me is that after reading the book, you will realize that no one was actually wrong –

1) Thondup (the king of Sikkim at that time) wanted to keep the essence of his country intact from

  1. the influx of primarily Hindu immigrants from Nepal so that that Buddhism didn’t get lost;
  2. the invasion of China which doesn’t follow any religion and if China takes over Sikkim, there will not be any religion practiced in Sikkim too;
  3. From India which had recently become democratic country and was guarding the borders where China meets Sikkim. Thondup wanted to limit the involvement of Indians till guarding the borders only.

2) India – which was least interested in the beginning to annex Sikkim but due to geopolitical situation was forced to manipulate and play dirty so that Sikkim became a part of India. While I too felt that what Indira Gandhi and others had done at that time was not correct, but in order to save the nation from Chinese invasion, they had to annex Sikkim. How they did it is of course debatable but from India’s perspective it was for a larger good.

3) Kazi – Opponent of Thondup who was played at the hands of Indians to bring democracy to the state and was then later outplayed by politics

No one was right and no was wrong. Things just kept on unfolding and soon one realizes that annexation of Sikkim was inevitable. Along with India, China, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, there are other nations who also take the center stage in this well-researched book – The US (which has something or the other to do with every country on the planet), The UK and the USSR.

In this book, Andrew Duff has skilfully weaved together various strands of the unfolding drama in Sikkim to produce a page-turner. I recommend that every Indian should read about the tragic story of Sikkim and share their perspective of who was right and wrong. This beautiful piece of work needs to be promoted more.

Rating: 5 out of 5

About the reviewer :

Vipul Murarka likes to learn something new every time he picks up a book. He has done BSc (Hons) in Plant Biotechnology from University of Nottingham after which he has done MBA in Marketing from School Of Inspired Leadership. Right now he resides in Myanmar doing business in agriculture.

 

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