Kikee Bhutia talks about the contemporary discourses around ‘othering’ in Sikkim and analyse the region’s inter-ethnic challenges
This presentation explores the vernacular discourse surrounding the ambiguous nature of Dhuk lha (Poison deity) in Sikkim. Before its merger with India in 1975, Sikkim was a Himalayan Buddhist kingdom ruled by the Chogyal Dynasty formed in 1642 under the influence of Tibetan theocracy. Today’s demography is primarily made up of the Lhopo (Bhutia), Rong (Lepcha), and Nepalese ethnic groups. Additionally, there are people from Bihar, Bengal, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of India, who are generally referred to as ‘madhise’ ‘dhoti’ (plainsmen) now settled in Sikkim, as well as Tibetan refugees who arrived there after Tibet’s occupation by China in the 1950s.
In this talk, I argue that the ambiguous position of Dhuk lha can be interpreted and seen as an outcome of the growing communal and ethnic influence on local, Buddhist and non-Buddhist traditions and belief systems. While communal harmony has long been the ideal norm, this ethnic diversity also always carries the possibility of creating disorder. According to Erikson (1993); “… ethnic relations are being defined and perceived by people; how they talk and think about their own group and its salient characteristics as well as those of other groups, and how particular worldviews are being maintained, contested and transformed.”
Therefore, the fear of being poisoned assumes varied and contested forms among different communities, who reside in Sikkim and often practice demonizing and ‘othering’ each other.