The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bhutanese in exile Ignored for too long

Bhutanese Refugees Ignored for too long
Published on: 23rd November, 2009
By: Dirgha Raj Prasai
In the 18th century, dense forests covered much of Bhutanese territory. In 1725, the Nepali speaking Bhutanese who had already been in Bhutan for centuries were given the responsibility of safeguarding its borders.
The Nepali speaking Bhutanese – Brahmins, Kshetrias, Newars, Limbus, Rais, Gurungs, Magars, Tamangs, Kamis and Damais were making major contributions in the development of southern Bhutan. The Nepali language had been granted the status of lingua franca since history. Therefore, the Nepali speaking Bhutanese did not face any difficulties in terms of language. Even though priority was given to Buddhism, all ethnic groups were free to follow Hinduism or any other religion and to wear any traditional dress. The titles of “Dharmaraja” and “Devraja” – words of Nepali origin – have been used by the King and the Prime minister of Bhutan just as the “Shree Panch” and “Shree Teen” in Nepal.
Nepali settlement
In the establishment of Bhutan, major credit goes to the Tibetan and Nepali speaking Bhutanese and Kuchbihari. The first Royal dynasty of Bhutan was the Namgyal, who came to Bhutan as the “Autari Lama” from Tibet and laid the foundation for a prosperous Bhutan. Dharmaraja Namgyal established law in the country. In 1861 B.S., the laws, regulations, rights and measures prevalent in Gorkha were introduced in Bhutan. At the time of Dharmaraja Namgyal, Bhutan’s relationship extended not only with Gorkha but also with the Malla Kings of the Kathmandu Valley and the Sen dynasty of Nepal.
Skilled craftsmen were taken from Nepal to build Buddhist stupas and monasteries. Hindu priests from Nepal were also well recognised during the period. Relations between the Hindus and Buddhists were extremely harmonious since they were engaged in building government monasteries and celebrated their respective festivals together. The Royal family strongly believes in the Shivatwa to be the Buddhatwa and the Buddhatwa to be the Shivatwa. That is why the King had great faith in the Halesi Mahadev of Khotang and Swaymbhunath in Kathmandu. Thus, as the Nepali speaking ethnic groups had settled in Bhutan since the early days, they were regarded as authentic Bhutanese citizens.
In 1907 A.D., Devraja Pellop Wangchuk abolished the “Dharmaraja” system and started the Wangchuk dynasty, which was adopted through a conspiracy. No one can deny the contributions of the Nepali speaking Bhutanese in the growth of Bhutan before the Wangchuk dynasty and thereafter. During this period, the East India Company ruled India, and it didn’t want Bhutan to have a Royal regime. The Nepalese government helped in constituting a delegation that included Devraja Pellop Wangchuk and convinced the British to maintain the institution of the Royal dynasty in Bhutan.
Chandra Shumsher maintained good relations with the British, and it was through him that an understanding could be reached between the Wangchuk dynasty in Bhutan and the British in India. But, it is indeed disappointing that such historic events have been forgotten through time, and in 1988 the Nepali Speaking Bhutanese were thrown out of Bhutan. Following the census taken that year, the Nepali speaking Bhutanese were ordered to either show proof of their residence prior to 1958 A.D. or be expelled.
Later on, even those who produced such evidence were beaten up and forcefully expelled and their documents burnt. This is indeed great injustice. Where are the people who talked about human rights and justice? In 1971, when Bhutan became a member of the United Nations, its population was declared as one million, and later in 1988 it came to be only seven hundred thousand. This was a strategy to compel the Nepali speaking Bhutanese people to leave the country.
The forceful eviction of the Nepalese speaking Bhutanese from the country shows the brutality of the Crown of Bhutan, and recently in India, Bhutanese King Jigme Singhe Wangchuk told the media that not all Bhutanese refugees in Nepal are Bhutanese. This is a blatant lie. Ignoring all realities, no one can trust such a tactic to label genuine Bhutanese citizens as illegitimate citizens. Such a statement goes contrary to the interest of both Nepal and Bhutan and needs reconsideration. The statement may set a bad image of the King and the Kingdom in the international community.
Bhutan is considered a Buddhist country, but its actions against its own citizens such as framing false court cases, inciting rape and expelling their citizens from their own country is a cruel irony. Nationalism is not merely a sentiment but also the right to live decently as human beings. Yet, when its citizens have been deprived of their own nationalism, how can Bhutan be considered a nation? The Bhutanese refugee problem was almost on the verge of being resolved, but for the mandatory adoption of the Jongkha language and the Kira (Tibetan dress) dress by all citizens.
The refugee crisis is not merely a bilateral problem between Nepal and Bhutan because the Indo-Bhutanese treaty of 1947 states that the defense and foreign policy of Bhutan shall be controlled by India. In order to solve the Bhutanese refugee problem, Nepal, Bhutan and India should make joint efforts. India cannot stand aloof from this problem as India’s collaboration in fueling the problem is apparent in one way or the other, and it’s for sure that the issue cannot be resolved without Indian consent.
It is well known to the Bhutanese King that the Nepalese speaking Bhutanese people are faithful to the Wangchuk dynasty. The book written by Bhutanese leader in exile Tek Nath Rijal called “Nirvasan (In Exile)” also highlights the real situation of Bhutan. The fact is that Nepalese speaking Bhutanese always wanted to live in peace by maintaining good relations with the King. Since some time, the Bhutanese leader, Rijal, has been visiting various relevant centres in Europe and America and advocating the rights of the Bhutanese refugees to return to their home country. The international community is also showing sympathy for Rijal and the refugees. Consequently, the Bhutanese King cannot ignore this, and he should be flexible. Without solving the refugee problem, talking about constitutional monarchy and democracy is useless. Therefore, the monarch should be in a position to recall the Nepalese speaking Bhutanese citizens, including Rijal, back to their country without conditions so that they can settle down there with dignity as they had prior to 1988. These people are ready to accept all terms and conditions Bhutanese citizens must follow. Should the Bhutanese King himself assess these facts and find out the reality and solve the long standing refugee problem, this would lead to the prosperity of Bhutan and the Bhutanese royal institution.
Prasai is an Expert Author at EZine.
The Orginal Source of the article can be found at:


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