Gangtok: Sonam Lama, the lone monk in the newly elected Sikkim Assembly, said he took the plunge into politics to protect the Buddhist `dharma` and enthrone the 17th Karmapa in his seat, the famous Rumtek monastery.
Fighting on a ticket from Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, Lama had defeated two other monks in the recently concluded Assembly polls to win the unique `Sangha` seat, where only monks can vote and contest.
"The ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) government has ignored the needs of Buddhist followers and the monk community. Now I will fight to protect our `Dharma`," Lama told PTI here.
The most burning issue for the monk from Simik Duduling Gompa in East Sikkim relates to the Karmapa, spiritual leader of Kagyu order of Tibet Buddhism.
Citing security concerns, the union Home Ministry has restricted Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa, to travel to Sikkim. He is waiting to be enthroned in Rumtek monastery, the most important seat of Buddhism in Sikkim.
"He is allowed to come to Darjeeling and Kalimpong then why not Sikkim? I will go and meet representatives of the central government in Delhi and demand that he should be allowed to travel to Sikkim so that we can enthrone him, the monk-turned-MLA said.
Until the Karmapa returns, the Twelfth Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche is overseeing activities at Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre, located about 23 km from Gangtok amidst picturesque surroundings.
"He is our guru and should be here with his disciples. No one should politicise religion and stop Karmapa from coming here," said a Lama from Rumtek.
There is also a controversy whether Ogyen Trinley Dorje or Trinley Thaye Dorje should be regarded as the 17th Karmapa.
The MLA however regards Ogyen Thinley Dorje as their Karmapa. "Not only me but all others here believe that he is the Karmapa," he said.
The `Sangha` seat in the Sikkim Assembly is the only of its kind in the country which was created under Article 371 (F) of the Constitution to give monks`
representation in governance as was done during the rule of the Chogyal kings who ruled the Himalayan kingdom before its merger with Indian union in 1975.
Another challenge the monks are facing is from the construction of hydel power projects, some of which are very close to monasteries or sites regarded as sacred by Buddhists.
A case has already been filed by the monks against the state government for construction of a power project in West Sikkim which is disturbing spiritual activities in Tashiding monastery.
"They are drilling below the hill to make a tunnel for hydropower project. As the monastery is on the top of that hill, peace and tranquillity gets disturbed," Lama said.
Cheweng Pintso, co-ordinator of the `Monks of Sikkim`, an association of the monks, alleged that the sanctity of holy sites has been encroached upon by the government by means of power projects.
To oversee affairs related to religious institutions like monasteries, Sikkim has a special department - Ecclesiastical Affairs Department.
Traditionally, the monk winning the Sangha seat was made the minister of this department but last year Chief Minister Pawan Chamling kept it under his portfolio despite the `Sangha` representative being from his own party.