Dr. SUBEDI Bhim PrasadCentral Department of Geography,Tribhuvan University, KirtipurKathmandu, NEPALTEL:977 1 331194E-MAIL: email@example.com
WHEN INVITATION TURNS SOUR: THE CASE OF BHUTANESE REFUGEES
About hundred thousand Bhutanese of Nepalese origin (BONO) are living at even camps in eastern Nepal as refugee since 1991. These refugees are not only confined to UNHCR supported camps, a sizeable numbers are estimated o be living outside. If those scattered in other parts of Nepal and in Northeastern hills of India are taken into account their number counts about 30,000. Both the sending country i.e., Bhutan and the primary host i.e., Nepal are small Himalayan kingdoms in South Asia. Both belong to world's poorest countries, and except for population size and level of urbanization most demographic indicators are comparable. Territorially Bhutan is one-third smaller but her per capita GNP is almost double that of Nepal. The country is settled by three main groups of people namely, Drukpa (the ruling group), Sharchops (early settlers) and Lhotshampas (the southerners, ethnic Nepali). This paper presents the current situation of BONO refugees and analyses the context, which turned these southerners into refugee. It argues hat this refugee problem is closely related to the globalization of human rights.
With emergence of democratic government in the neighbouring countries, rapid increase of Lhotshampas (the southerners, ethnic Nepali) and their request for fair share in the state affairs as part of human rights, the ruling group of Bhutan (i.e., Drukpa) became worried on their established monopoly in the state affairs of Bhutan. This perceived fear among ruling group of southerners in Drukpa's future dominance lead to subsequent reactions, which often violated the human rights of Lhotshampa. Ultimately these reactions turned out to be the main reasons behind BONO refugee problem. The problem is rooted in the history of Bhutan's early settlement and it can be plausibly explained through political demographic perspective.
Refugee problem is not new in Nepal. She faced Tibetan refugee problem in the early 1960s. But the number and the contexts in which Nepal is hosting BONO refugee now are different. The impacts of sheltering refugees have been already evident and have been more negative in southeastern Nepal. Eight ministerial-level talks between Nepal and Bhutan have been held since the problem started but it has thus far left BONO refugees in a state of nowhere. They are actively demonstrating to make their case and their plea to return to their homeland but their repatriation process is becoming more complex with the lapse of time. Without India's positive approach, the problem may prolong rather than having suitable settlement in the near future.