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J. C. White the First British Political Officer of Sikkim

J.C White Sitting cross leg position, on his right  Sir Ugen Wangchuk Prime Minister of Bhutan. This picture abides copyright of British Library, London (www.bl.uk)

Rajen Upadhyay
Being sandwiched between warring nations, Sikkim lost much of its territory to the Bhutanese invaders in 1788, to the Nepalese invaders in 1789 and was forced to cede beautiful hills of Darjeeling in 1835 to the British for their ‘selfless’ help in repelling the Gorkha invaders. The un-demarcated Sikkim-Tibet frontier also greatly suffered the sandwiched Sikkim. In 1885, British Indian Government sent Macaulay Mission to Tibet but had to abort due to the Tibetan occupation of a fort at Lingtu. For almost five years from 1885 to 1890 Sikkim had to resist pressure from both North and the South. It was only after the Anglo-Chinese Convention the frontier between Sikkim and Tibet was delimited. 

It was at this juncture, the British Indian Government appointed J.C. White as a Political Officer in Sikkim. An Engineer by profession Mr. White had a huge responsibility to solace the confrontational powers i.e. Tibet and India and to maintain peace and security in the Sangri-la. It was in the month of November 1887 Mr. White first visited Sikkim. On the outbreak of Sikkim-Tibet war 1888, he was sent as an Assistant Political Officer with peditionary force, and on conclusion of peace the following year he was offered the post of Political Officer in administrative charge of the State of Sikkim. On the subject of his appointment as the Political Officer he comments- “Naturally I gladly accepted an appointment which would give me an opportunity of living in a country I was sp anxious to see more of, and I have never regretted my decision; although in consequence of the view taken by the Government of India of my special employment oon the frontier, and the fact that I left the Public Works Department to take up this appointment, I have been a looser from a pecuniary point of view to a very large extent”…
 
Regarding his service in Sikkim he  writes “ At the conclusion of hostilities the Government of India made a proposal that I should remain in Sikkim, with the title of Political Officer, and administer the affaires of the state in conjunction with a Council composed of the Chief Dewans, Lamas and Kazis, and of which I was to be President”.
After the appointment of Mr. White as the Political Officer of Sikkim the British Government decided to remove Maharaja Thotub Namgyal and Maharani Yeshey Dolma from Sikkim to Kurseong, in Darjeeling District of British India. After their removal, Mr. White became the de-facto ruler of the Kingdom. It was during his tenure as a Political Officer Sikkim witnessed the birth of  Zamindari System, Thikadari System Kalobhari, Jharlangi and Theki-bethi


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