Institute for Social and Economic Change

Established in 1972 by Professor V K R V Rao, ISEC is an All-India Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Training in the Social Sciences

Religion and State in Sikkim: The Place of the Buddhist Sangha – isec

Religion and State in Sikkim: The Place of the Buddhist Sangha

Abstract

After Sikkim became a part of India in 1975, the reign of the Namgyal dynasty came to an end. However, Article 371F of the Constitution of India protects Sikkim’s indigenous groups, by retaining already existing Sikkimese laws such as the Land Revenue Order No.1 of 1917, which forbids the sale of Bhutia and Lepcha land to other groups, as well as the reservation of a seat for the Buddhist Sangha (a religious organisation) in the state legislative assembly. This was through creating a separate constituency comprising the Buddhist Sangha and its members. Only the Sangha members can vote for a candidate, and the candidate is also a member. After getting elected, the Sangha member would be a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Sikkim. Drawing on the literature as well as from fieldwork, this paper explores the historical and ideological background of the reservation of a Sangha seat in Sikkim’s legislature, and its place in the Indian political sphere. The main purpose of this paper is to understand Sikkim’s political system that is part of a secular democratic polity, i.e., India, but at the same time has a place for a religious organisation, which can also be considered as a civil society organisation, functioning in the state legislature. We also examine the role of the incumbent of the Sangha seat, and his functioning in the state legislative assembly, which should also be recognised as a unique situation, in that no other state legislature in India has a seat reserved for a religious organisation.

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