Kazi Lhendup Dorjee (October 11, 1904 – July 28, 2007), also spelled Kazi Lhendup Dorji or Kazi Lhendup Dorji Khangsarpa, was the first chief minister of Sikkim from 1974 to 1979 after its annexation by India. He was popularly known as Kazi Saab in Sikkim. Most present-day Sikkimese consider him to a traitor and a disgraceful human being who sold his own motherland for petty political benefits.
Kazi Lhendup Dorjee was born in 1904 in Pakyong, East Sikkim, Sikkim.He was born into the Khangsarpa family, who were Sikkimese nobility. He was of Lepcha origin. Kazi Lhendup Dorji Khangsarpa entered the Rumtek monastery at the age of 6 years. His uncle, Tshurfuk Lama Rabden Dorji was the then Head Lama of the monastery and Lhendup became his disciple. Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal, then maharaja of Sikkim, while visiting the monastery took a great liking to the hong monk Lhendup and took him to Gangtok, where he placed him in a Tibetan School. At the age of 16, Kazi Lhendup returned to Rumtek monastery and under strict training for priesthood for two years. Thereafter on completion of his training he succeeded as the Head Lama of Rumtek monastery and its estates on the retirement of Lama Ugen Tenzing. Kazi Lhendup remained as the Head Lama in Rumtek monastery for 8 years and then left the monastery to work with his brother the late Kazi Phag Tshering, who founded the Young Men Buddhist Association at Darjeeling. The two brothers founded a large number of schools in West Sikkim and were instrumental in bringing about a number of social and other reforms.
Dorjee founded the Sikkim Praja Mandal in 1945 and served as its first president. Dorjee also became president of the Sikkim State Congress in 1953 and served as president until 1958.
In 1962, Dorjee helped to found the Sikkim National Congress political party.The Sikkim National Congress was founded by Dorjee as a non-communal political party. The unity themed political platform of the party helped the Sikkim National Congress to win eight of the eighteen seats up for grabs in Sikkim’s third general election. The Sikkim National Congress merged with India’s Congress Party in the 1970s following Sikkim’s merger with India. Dorjee also formed the Sikkim Council to promote “communal harmony.”
Dorjee was considered to be a key figure in the 1975 union of Sikkim with India.Dorjee served as the first Chief Minister of Sikkim from 1974, the year before the official merger, until 1979.
Dorjee was honoured by the government of India with the Padma Vibhushan in 2002. He was also awarded the Sikkim Ratna by the state government of Sikkim in 2004
Dorjee’s “mysteriously charming and conspiring wife”, Kazini Elisa Maria, was even more shrewd than her husband and was his chief confidante and adviser. Formerly Elisa-Maria Langford-Rae, she had been married twice before. She was of Scottish extraction and had studied law at Edinburgh University. She had lived a very colourful life, working as a journalist for a French newspaper and lived for a while in Kemal Atatürk’s palace in Turkey. She converted to Buddhism and took Sangharakshita as her teacher. In the 1920s she had been in Burma where for a while she was a close friend of the author George Orwell
Kazi Lhendup Dorjee died of a heart attack on July 28, 2007 at his home in Kalimpong, North Bengal in the Indian State of West Bengal. Kalimpong is located just across the state border from Sikkim. Dorjee was 102 years old at the time of his death.Though he died of a heart attack, Dorjee had been suffering from liver problems for several years.
Dorjee’s funeral took place at the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim on August 3, 2007.
The current Chief Minister of Sikkim, Pawan Kumar Chamling, called Dorjee a distinguished statesman who helped to motivate Chamling to join Sikkim’s democracy movement in 1973.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released a statement following Dorjee’s death saying, ““I am deeply shocked and grieved to learn of the sad demise of Shri Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khang Serpa, the first Chief Minister of Sikkim. He played a historic role as the architect of Sikkim’s accession to the Indian Union and had the distinction of spearheading the State as its first Chief Minister from 1974 to 1979. The pride of place occupied by Sikkim as an important State of our country and its impressive progress in many spheres owe a lot to numerous policies initiated by him. In his unfortunate passing away the country in general and the State of Sikkim in particular has lost a veteran public figure whose many sided contributions to nation building endeared him to the people.
Although celebrated in India, Lhendup Dorjee is often cited in South Asia as an exemplary tool of India’s “expansionism.” In Nepal, the word ‘Lhendupe prabritti’ is synonymously used with ‘gaddaripan’ and ‘deshdrohipan’. In 2013, Begum Khaleda Zia, former Prime Minister of Bangladesh accused the government of Sheikh Hasina Wajed of trying to turn Bangladesh into another Sikkim.She said “Read the history of Lhendup Dorjee. He did not stay very long. He was ousted.” She also accused the Awami League government of “trying to sell the country.”