Towards the last half of the nineteenth century, high up in the laps of the Himalayas, events were unfolding that would lead to the birth of a new organization. Sikkim had become a protectorate of British India in 1861 and this had triggered off a spate of activity in the State.
The first political officer of Sikkim, Claude White thought that with the increase in population, crime would be more prevalent and felt necessary to raise a Police force. Sikkim was also having territorial disputes with Tibet.
In 1886 some Tibetian Militia occupied Lingto below the Jelepla pass on the Eastern border of Sikkim. In 1988 the Tibetians attacked Gnathang below the Jelepla pass but were pushed back by the British troops. Disturbances of such kind were posing a serious threat to the security of the state and the British felt that a Police outpost must be established somewhere at a strategic point on the Kalimpong-Rhenock-Jelepla-Lhasa Trade route.
It was on the 27th of Nov. 1897 that a force consisting of 1 Head Constable and 5 Constables was posted at Aritar near Rhenock on the authority of a resolution passed by the King of Sikkim in the council. Sikkim Police was thus born.
Claude White, the first political officer of Sikkim gave account of the function of the police force as follows:
· Collection of land revenue and rent
· Treasure guard
· Arrest and conveyance of offenders
· Carrying out orders of Durbar
· Maintenance security of the border following the withdrawal of the British troops from Gnathang.
In September 1899, two additional policemen were employed to guard the Bank opened by M/S Jetmull & Bhojraj at Gangtok. Prior to that, the need to have a regular police force had not felt as the landlords who were locally known as the Thikadars and the Kazis themselves functioned as police officers. In case of petty crimes they used to pass judgment and levy fines.
Corporal punishment like flogging was also resorted to sometimes on the subjects in their jurisdiction. Only heinous crimes involving murder was dealt by the Durbar. The task of the police was daunting –the state was covered with thick jungles. There were no roads and accessibility to habitations, which were sparsely populated but far-flung, was difficult.
The Annual Administration Report of the Sikkim Darbar 1919-1920 indicates that Sikkim Police had a strength of 1 SI, 2 Havaldar, 6 Head Constables & 28 Constables. The total budget of the Police Department was Rs. 10,000/-. The Administrative Report goes on to describe that the landlords continued to function as police officers within their jurisdiction. Only important cases were reported and investigated by the State Police.
There were two Secretaries under the Chogyal: the Judicial Secretary and the General Secretary .
The Police Department functioned under the Judicial Secretary initially but later on got transferred to the General Secretary. The jail was under the charge of the Police, which was responsible for the safe custody of the prisoners.
The Annual Administrative Report 1922-1223 explains that Sikkim was divided into two police ranges in 1922. the Eastern range with its headquarters at Gangtok looked after Rangpo, Rhenock, Gnathang. The Western range with its headquarters at Damthanng controlled Soreng, Dentam, Melli and Majitar. The conviction rate by the Court was also high. Out of the 42 cases investigated by the State Police in 1922-23, 54 persons were sent up for trial out of which 36 were convicted.
The Administrative report commends the Police Department for doing a splendid work in nipping in the bud the Non Cooperation Movement which spread all over the State in 1922. The total police force in 1922-1923 was 2 SI’s, 8 Havaldars, 14 Naiks & L/Naiks & 44 constables. The Administrative Report of 1922-1923 further mention that a Naik of th Sikkim Police used to visit the Bhutia and Nepali Boarding schools at Gangtok to train the students in P.T. twice a week. At many places, the police was also required to odd jobs like manning the Post Office and some police personnel were even functioning part time as Post Masters. Constables were not recruited directly but had to first serve in the Sikkim Auxiliary Force (also known as the “Lal Phetas” because of the red turban worn by them) for atleast one year before becoming eligible to apply for the post of constable.
The Administrative report of the year 1930-31 indicates that the strength of the police force was 2 officers and 66 men. The total number of grave crime reported during the year was as follows:
Murder - 1, Culpable Homicide - Nil, Dacoity – Nil, Robbery – Nil, House Breaking with theft – 1, Theft – 1.
In 1935 it was decided by the Sikkim Darbar to apply sections 367, 370, 371 and 374 of the Indian Penal Code in Sikkim Territory and it also ordered that compulsory labour be paid adequately on standarised rates. The Administrative Report of 1935 – 36 reports that the worst crime consisted of theft of a few ornaments or edibles from solitary houses of agriculturists. The total budget expenditure of the Police Department in 1936-37 and 1937-38 was Rs. 24,400 and Rs. 27,500 respectively.
Till the early thirties, the highest post in the police hierarchy was Sr. Sub Inspector. A post of Police Inspector was created in 1934. It was only in 1949 that the force came to be looked after by officers from India on deputation.
The first officer in the rank of Superintendent of Police was Shri. H.C. Dutta. He was posted in Sikkim for a short time of hardly a year. Shri Sheo Raj Singh came next in 1950 and continued till 1952.
Shri Mohinder Singh was the first Commissioner of Police who joined in 1953 and till his tenure in 1960 set up the Traffic Branch, the Check Post Branch, the Intelligence Branch, and the Fire Brigade.
Officers from the Eastern Frontier Rifles were brought on deputation to Sikkim Police to man outposts in the interiors. Shri Bajrang Lall headed the force from 1961 to 1967. Shri. S. K. Anand (1968-70) gave the Sikkim Police its dress regulation and also set up the Finger Print Section. Shri S. Dutta Chowdhury (1973-75) was instrumental in raising the Sikkim Armed Police. This was the time when Sikkim was in a turmoil. There were widespread and violent protests and demonstrations against the monarchy in the state. Sikkim police did a commendable job in preventing the complete breakdown of law and order.
After the merger of Sikkim with India, the Police Act of 1861 was extended. Shri P.R. Khurana (1975-79) was the first Inspector General of Police. He was succeeded by Shri M.N. Gadgil (1979-83) and Shri Raja Shreedharan (1984-86). Shri A. Ghatak was the first Director General of Police (1986-88).
The Sikkim Police presently has 27 Police Stations and 45 Outposts – a far cry from an almost inconspicuous beginning that the organization had a hundred years ago.
These Police stations and outposts are situated at altitudes ranging fro almost mean seal level to 18,000ft above sea level – fro the sultry tropical to the arid dry artic. The duties of the police are also equally varied from patrolling the international borders to prevent illegal immigration to normal law and order duties.
The crime rate in the state is one of the lowest in the country- the credit squarely goes to its peace loving people and over 3500 strong efficient Sikkim Police.
The various units that presently constitute the Sikkim Police are:
· District Police (Gangtok, Pakyong, Namchi, Soreng, Gyalsing and Mangan),
· State Reserve Lines,
· Special Branch,
· Crime Branch,
· Home Guards & Civil Defence,
· Communication & Computers,
· Fire and Emergency Service,
· Sikkim Armed Police,
· The India Reserve Battalion was raised in 1996 and has been deployed mostly outside the state
Besides performing their legal duties like maintenance of law and order, Sikkim Police also played a yeoman service during natural calamities and excelled in sports and mountaineering. With rapid modernization and induction of the latest technology, Sikkim Police is well poised at the threshold of the millennium to face the challenges of the 21st century.