The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

NEW King with old shoes

On Bhutan :Hopes are cautious

By I. P. Adhikari,Bhutan

Finally, the ruler entitled by the fifth Druk Gyalpo realized that the issue of Bhutanese refugees needs to be addressed to find a solution of the southern Bhutan standoff. The first session of the National Assembly, the group of handpicks of the fourth king, are going to talk on Bhutanese refugees and this is addition to the history of Bhutan where the king made already made a history by abdicating the throne.

There are no such good reasons of rejoicing on knowing that Bhutanese rulers are talking of this for the first time. Not formally, the issue had been the subject of hot debates in government circle for decades, through which the absolute monarch King Jigme Singye failed to give out a solution.

In 1990, the fourth Druk autocrat had stated he would abdicate the throne if he fails to find a solution of the crisis in the south. Faithfully, he did so. He acted illegally for decades to surpass national interest over his personal interests but ethically, he complied with his words. He reserves not of thanks for it.

At this time, the history in Bhutan is just revising of what it had happened during last years of the third king reign. The early reigns of third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, had been mismanaged. Courtiers had overrun his executives to misuses. With constitutional reforms and handing over few of the many powers to people, the king had immensely gathered felicitations from people, whom the national declared as 'father of nation'.

Once the new king came, he focused his policies to gain support from Nepali speakers from the south. But the attempts did not last long. As the years passed, most of the constitutional powers handed over to the government and the national assembly were seized back which led the monarch to reach the climax of autocracy.

Like his father, King Jigme Singye, who would have planned since long, did attempts to win the confidence of the people as the true patriot for national development. No matter, he led the national into economic development, his policies that sow the sees of discord among the citizens led the country's national integrity into fragmentation.

The interest of the fifth Druk Gyalpo to address the issue of 'people in the camps in Nepal', as the government mouthpiece put the phrase to address Bhutanese refugees, in another attempt to get confidence of the ethnic Bhutanese inside Bhutan. But before knowing what exactly the assembly discusses and resolves, we can neither criticize not support the intention of the young monarch.

The Bhutan's changing policies are not absolutely out of the south Asia geopolitics. After the US government made a proposal to take around 60 percent of the Bhutanese refugees for settlement, the south Asia politics on this grave matter took a turn. Kuldip Nayar, an Indian journalist told media persons in Kahtmandu recently after his meeting with the US ambassador to Nepal, that US interest is associated with the augmentation of the rebellion activities by the community groups in north east India. Perfectly, as we suspected earlier, the US offer is not a humble humanitarian assistance but part of the strategies to subdue to growing communism in south Asia.

Bhutanese refugees have nothing to be dread with the US offer but are concerned that this would encourage the autocrat for further eviction. Political situation in Bhutan has not changed and signs of liberty and democracy are yet to emerge, respect to human rights and equality and freedom of the press are the objects in far distance. The Americas and India, who regard itself as the largest democratic nation of the world, must make passage for establishment of peace, democracy, human rights and press freedom in Bhutan. King Jigme Singye's abdication has paved the way forward for democracy and liberal society in Bhutan.

The republican wave in Nepal has good impact on the fourth Druk regime for renunciation of the throne in favour of his unmarried son. The movement in Nepal has injected a good education for king Jigme that his throne would be in danger if he continues to remain stick to it. The only way for him is to handover it to his successor whereby failure of monarchy to remain associated with the political changes might not go on his credibility box.

Further, Jigme has passed on the sins to his ignorant son. A fresh graduate is taking over the charge of nation, hoping to tackle the grave problems created by his father. Upon failure of the new king to make a hey, the bygone regime should shoulder all the allegations.

Overall, inclusion of the Bhutanese refugees issue at the top of the list for this session of the National Assembly has infused little hopes and excitements among the Bhutanese citizens who spent some two decades in an unknown land. The initiative must be watched carefully to make sure that the political leaders in exile, general refugees and the international community are not again thronged into a trap. Here, hopes are cautious.

Adhikari is the president of Association of Press Freedom Activists – Bhutan

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