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 1975 to 1979 after its union with India. He was popularly known as Kazi Saab and Desh Bechua in Sikkim.
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.
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 annexation by India. Dorjee also formed the Sikkim Council to promote "communal harmony."
However, Dorjee continues to remain remembered in his home state as a "desh bechua" or seller of ones own country because of his key role in the annexation of Sikkim with India
Dorjee's wife, Kazini Elisa Maria, formerly Elisa-Maria Langford-Rae, had been married twice before. She was of Scottish extraction and had studied law at Edinburgh University. 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, 290 days at the time of his death. Though he died of a heart attack, Dorjee had been suffering from liver problems for several years.
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."