Religion and Development in Sikkim
The association of religion and development has received increasing attention since the beginning of the twenty-first century (Narayan et al 2000, Alkire 2006, Haynes 2007, Clarke 2011, Rakodi 2011, Tomalin 2013). This is partly as a result of the failure of the secular approach of development to achieve economic growth (Haynes 2007, Lunn 2009) and also emerged from Weber’s discourse of Modernity as ‘disenchantment of the world’ characterised by rationalism, secularism, and bureaucratic ‘iron cage’ (Saler 2004, Jenkins 2000, Carroll 2011).
Sikkim became a part of India on May 16th, 1975, simultaneously putting an end to the theocratic rule of the Chogyals. However, Buddhism as a State religion in the past still leaves a print in today’s political institutions of Sikkim in the form of Sangha seat in State Legislative Assembly and Ecclesiastical Affairs Department to look after the affairs of all the religious institutions within the state which stands distinct from the Indian notion of secularism (Vandenhelsken 2003, Arora 2006). Thus Sikkim represents a paradoxical case as one can sense a continuity of some theocratic elements in Sikkim’s democratic polity.
Buddhism is the second largest religion in Sikkim after Hinduism. Buddhist comprises 29.60% the total population. Thus considering that Buddhism is a minority religion, one can simultaneously observe the increasing number of monasteries, for instance, The Gazetteer of Sikkim (1894: 257) states 36 monasteries in Sikkim whereas today there are 248 monasteries under Ecclesiastical Affairs Department, consecration of Buddhist statues (Arora 2006), and the display of Buddhists festivals and rituals in the public arena by the state (Vandenhelsken 2011), one can sense a strong hold of Buddhism in Sikkim not only in political system (in the form of Sangha seat) but also as pilgrimage tourism (Arora 2006), and used as a medium by the politicians to acquire moral legitimacy for its rule and Scheduled Tribe status from the central government (Vandenhelsken 2011).
With this background in brief, this paper is an attempt to examine the relationship between religion and development processes in Sikkim. First it attempts to map two important religious bodies, Sangha and Ecclesiastical Affairs Department and secondly it seeks to find out how they are engaged with the state through various development processes. The engagement of religion with the state has many dimensions. In the course, the paper also attempts to capture some aspects of Buddhists philosophical concepts which are applied to protect environment in recent times and certain programmes such as awareness on climate change, plantation of trees, cultivation without using chemical fertilizers, waste management systems, promotion of solar energy and being vegetarian are carried out, mainly in Kagyu monasteries under the guidance of 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje in Sikkim. Such programmes are carried out with the financial help of international development agencies like United State Agency for International Development (USAID) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).