Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sikkim Postal History: Those early years - i

Postal envelope showing the Rangpo cancellation of 1909
Last year i read in one of the daily newspaper from Gangtok mentioning about the heritage status to be given to the Rangpo Post Office on being the second oldest post office in Sikkim. Truly, it is an appreciating gesture but how correct is it to give the year of establishment as 1927. I rushed through other newspapers that carried the story but i did not find any changes at the year of establishment. Surprisingly, myself being related to philately I felt I need to provide some input about Sikkim Postal History.
So how about this, I have a scan of postal envelopes with a clear postal cancellation of Rangpo that reads 9 October, 1909. So it makes a clear picture that Rangpo Post Office was set up prior to 1909. 
On similar account I read in the newspapers about Rhenock making bid for the first post office of Sikkim. I am not so sure about the old post offices; here I am taking about the houses in which post office was set up. But the information I have collected on the postal history of Sikkim says a different story. The old Post Office House at Rhenock may be old may be some 100 years old but how about a ‘Dak Ghar’ at Lingtam, though a vacant house today still gives a name ‘Dak Line’ to its adjoining surrounding.
Few years back, I had collected an article on Sikkim by Dipok Dey, an eminent name in world philatelist from Kolkata, who had over the years designed several Indian Postage Stamps and a United Nation Postage Stamp, which has few pages dedicated to the Postal History of Sikkim. He has mentioned references of five books for his article that include ‘From the Diary of Stephen Smith’ compiled by DN Jatia, ‘Postal History of Tibet’ by Arnold C Waterfall, ‘Sikkim and Bhutan’ by J Claude White, ‘The Post Office of India and its Story’ by Geoffrey Clarke and ‘The Postage Stamps of Tebet’ by HR Holmes.
Dey writes, it was the aftermath of the British Expedition 1888 that laid the foundation of the Postal History of Sikkim. The year 1888 saw the Britsh Expedition Force driving out the Tibetan forces beyond the Jalepla that led to the permanent stationing of the military escort at Gangtok. Thus, it was finally that a Post & Telegraph Office was set up in Gangtok.
With the advance of troops, a Post Office was opened at Dulapchin (now Dalapchand) that was later removed to Ranglichu (now Rongli). At the same time, other Post Offices were also opened at Gnatong, Sedonchin, Gangtok, Rhenock Bazaar and Pakyong.
Very little in known about the two earliest Post Offices but I have come in an auction site at internet of the selling of a East India Post Card used from Gnatong, Sikkim that was send to Bombay in the year 1889.
The website states the description of the auctioned Post Card as “1889 (3 Dec.) 1/4a. brown stationery card from Private John Sullivan of the Connaught Rangers at Sikkim to Bombay, cancelled with a good strike of the " experimental po/c-7" c.d.s. and with Market Bombay arrival c.d.s. alongside; the contents requesting the addressee to send a catalogue to the writer at Sikkim; most unusual. The card with a couple of small faults though a rare item of mail from this obscure military operation.
It further writes in a Note: In 1886 the British Government discovered that, in contravention of a treaty with it, one had been signed by the Sikkim Rajah declaring Sikkim subject only to China and Tibet. In 1888 the Tibetans became aggressive, obstructing the Jelapla Road at Lintu. A Sikkim Expeditionary Force was dispatched in March and with the Tibetans defeated and pushed back to their own side of the frontier in October, active military operations ceased. A small force remained in Gnatong after the signing at Calcutta of an Anglo-Chinese convention
Three Experimental Post Offices accompanied the expeditionary force. After military operations ended Experimental Post Office C-7 was established at Gnatong.