Meet Rajen Upadhaya, History Lecturer, Namchi Government College. Known among media for his article of bygone days of Sikkim in nepali newspaper ‘Samay Dainik’, he is also a popular blogger.
Ø Tell us about yourself.
I was born on 3rd of December 1981 to Mr. Krishna Prasad Upadhyay and Mrs. Kaushila Devi Upadhyay at Tareythang village in East Sikkim. I attended my basic education at Manpur Dongrong Primary School situated at far flung East Sikkim, thence, run by a village Committee. I did my 12th from Ranipool Sr. Secondary School now known as Brihaspati Parsai Sr. Sec. School. Completed my graduation with Honours in History from Sikkim Govt. College Tadong in 2002 and accomplished my M.A. in History and Archaeology from University of Pune in 2004. Completed M.Phil from Madurai Kamaraj University in 2008 and currently pursuing my PhD from Kumaun University, Nainital, Uttarakhand. The specialization of my Doctoral research is Peasant Resistance in Sikkim during World Wars.
Ø You are a history lecturer at Namchi Government College, share us your experiences.
I joined Namchi Govt. College as a young lad of 23. I was immature as compare to my seniors who had enough experience in this regard. Though, teaching is a profession of my father therefore, to teach the College student was not a challenging task for me. Yet, due to my age it was quite difficult to handle the students who were of an analogous age. But, I really had a great time with the students of NBU. I have been witnessing a change; I must say a substantial change among those students and the new ones. The former were carefree and blithe whereas, the new ones are very curious to understand something.
Ø Your interest lies in Sikkim History, any specific reason?
I was a student of Ancient India and I still have a huge love to this branch of my subject. After my MA I began to study this very subject in a much broader manner to pursue PhD. But, as an exigency of time I had to come to Sikkim to work therefore, I could not continue my studies in Ancient India. After spending nearly one year here I thought of going through the History of Sikkim. Initially, I find its history a weird but, later on, I got allured towards it. Well, the specific reason to have my interest on History of my state is the sense of belongingness and a sagacity of being a Sikkimese.
Ø Which period of Sikkim History attracts you the most and why?
Sikkimese History has many concealed and tacit parts. Its ancient part is totally based on mythology and for a student of History it is definitely a challenging task to remove myths from the reality. Further, our history is greatly attached with the people and their tradition. Therefore, I have chosen a period that has something we called as evidence in a strict historical terminology. The fascinating part of our history for me is resistance of the peasants against the tyrannical feudal set up. My ancestors too belong to this stratum of the Sikkimese society and I had often listened since my childhood about the prevalence of Kalo Bhari, Jharlangi, Theki Bethi, Ghar Lauri, Kuruwa, and other evils. Since those days I had a strong resentment against the feudal system of Sikkim, which I prefer to call as Himalayan Frontier Feudalism. The stipulation for using this term against Sikkimese feudalism is its distinctiveness and idiosyncratic nature from other feudal set ups prevalent in the Indian plains and neighbouring country of Nepal.
Ø If you are given an opportunity to meet any of the personalities of Sikkim History, whom will you choose and why?
Wish I could go back to their times and meet them. There are many figures of our times of yore that I am always eager to meet, to name them His Highness Palden Thondup Namgyal, Her Highness Hope Cooke Namgyal and Mr. Lal Bahadur Basnett. The core rationale for my curiosity to meet them is for their absolute love towards Sikkim and Sikkimese masses. My love for His Highness is always unbroken for the circumstances he had come across to uphold the sovereignty of his Kingdom. I personally feel that his loyalty towards the sovereignty of the erstwhile Himalayan Kingdom is somewhere mistreated after we became a part of the Union.
Ø Sikkim is a home of Neolithic tools, how old is it?
There are many views concerning the accessibility of the Neolithic tools in Sikkim. Very few researchers have chosen this slice of History for their studies. Scholars like Dr. N.R Banerji and Dr. Janaklal Sharma have accomplished a major task regarding the antiquity of the Neolithic tools they had been able to discover at various sites in Sikkim. Though, their task is a ground-breaking in this matter yet, we cannot ascertain the antiquity of other Neolithic tools until we undertake a major research.
Ø What is our say about the earliest community that set foot on the land of Sikkim?
It is a common conviction that the Lepchas are the aboriginals of Sikkim and historians, anthropologists, and sociologists have various hypotheses to prove their statements correct. From the studies it is also evident that the Lepchas are the earliest settlers of Sikkim. But, we need to understand which part of Sikkim we are talking about? If we have to believe on the accounts of Henry Francis Buchannan which talks about the extension of Sikkimese frontiers till Islampur and Malda of modern West Bengal in the South and Chumbi valley in the North, in this case, one cannot overrule the idea of the settlement of other tribes along with the Lepchas in Sikkim. Likewise, before the Namgyals, Sikkim did not have a defined area, and there are many evidences of the inhabitation of the tribes like Limboos and Magars in the western part of present Sikkim. Hence, it is quite a tough task for a student of Sikkim History to ascertain the aboriginals of Sikkim in an absolute manner. But, whatever other assumptions may be, for me, the Lepchas are the original inhabitants of Sikkim.
Ø Your blog on Sikkim is highly appreciated, how do you see life as a blogger?
Firstly, I would like to thank you for your appreciation about my blog. As a research scholar I had to browse many sites for the collection of articles and other related stuffs. Once I came across with your blog “Proud to be a Sikkimese”, before that, I was unknown about blogging world. My brother insisted me to write and publish some of my articles on a blog. His ideas had greatly inspired me as my students were running short of information in Sikkim History due to its inclusion in their syllabus. Therefore, with a view of providing them little information about the yester years of Sikkim I began to work on my blog “Sikkim: A Look Back View”. I feel good while sharing information on the blog and feels good that it is appreciated.
Ø Sikkim is today known for its tourism sector. How do you see it in the next twenty years?
The efforts of the State Government for promoting tourism in Sikkim deserve applause. Government is putting all its efforts to make Sikkim a known name in the map of the world by adding new avenues to this sector. Yet, as a student of History, I would like to insist on the Government to turn its attention towards preserving heritage of the forgotten Kingdom which had a distinct history as compare to its neighbouring Kingdoms. If that can be done, Sikkim would be able to drag more tourists that could not only lead to economic prosperity but also gives a better boulevard for all those foreign scholars who are curious to peep the past of Sikkim.
Ø Your words of advice to the young Sikkimese generations.
Today’s generation is very much like chalk and cheese than what we have come across in our teen age. The ingenuity of our young generation is heavily spoiled by forwarded messages on mobiles and by cyber-centric way of life. Apart from this, there is another section which can be regarded as the vulnerable section of our society who has its inclination towards consumption of drugs. Hence, my advices to them are Say no to drugs and cultivate the habit of study.