The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, September 11, 2006

Bhutan, India and America- Hari Prasad Adhikari

Bhutan, India and America
By Hari Prasad Adhikari

Sept 10 -

On August 30, 2006 a team of 14 member delegation led by Jim Kolbe from United States of America arrived at the Bhutanese capital. The delegation then met King Jigme Singye Wangchuk at Tashi chho dzong, Thimphu in which only the key members of the delegation were present. Prior to this, the delegates met Prime Minister Sangye Nidup, Chief Justice Sonam Tobgye and Foreign Minister Khandu Wangchuk.

A couple of days ago, the same team had visited two of the refugee camps namely, Beldangi and Sanischare in eastern Nepal. They had assured the refugees that they would raise the issue of repatriation with dignity and honor very strongly with the Druk dictator on their visit to Thimphu.

Although the actual information of the discourse regarding the political settlement and repatriation of Bhutanese refugees is yet to be disclosed but it is clear that the visiting delegation met the prominent sycophants in the king's coterie for the last eight years.
These flatterers have the privilege to talk in advance with the visiting guests so that they can summarize their views jointly or separately to brief the king. They even scrutinize any proposal of the visiting party or individual and add their own comment prior to grant the audience to the visitors by the king.

Such procedure is not compulsory to personalities from the Indian government.
In addition, Sangye Nidup, a close representative of the present royal family, is looked upon as a significant figure to gauge the pros and cons of the political decision and dimension made in the kingdom. Also, he has remained the guardian of business empires owned by the king's relatives since the 1980s.

As mentioned above, the American delegates met chief justice Sonam Tobgay and the chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution, in which the citizenship rights of the inhabitants of southern Bhutan, who are the true descendents of centuries-old ancestors, is denied by the document. Not only this, the constitution has legitimized the government's forceful acquisition of private properties owned by the citizens in southern Bhutan. Such barbaric action may invite unending disturbance in Bhutan in the near future. Also, its outcome may impede the repatriation of refugees and convulse the future politics of Bhutan.

There was a posh royal banquet hosted by the caravan of queens for the visiting delegates in Dechhen chholing palace. Definitely, there was ample of opportunity for free exchange of views in the area of mutual interest along with the win -win solution of the ongoing ethnic cleansing because all the queens and royal children are able to understand existing global politics and are competent to speak and read English decently. This would have given greater opportunity for Bhutan but the autocratic system of the governance may not have allowed them to express real and free opinion.

Interestingly, this meeting of American representatives with the designers of racist royal government is a remarkable moment for all. The Americans represented Abraham Lincoln's thought "for the people, by the people and of the people", while the Bhutanese represented the thought of "for the king, by the king and of the king".

In this regard the king's quotation is relevant to refer as he said, "... In a nutshell, they (Bhutanese refugees) want two things: democracy and separate Identity" which shows that he does not want to recognize democracy and cultural identities of the kingdom other than dictated by him.

Furthermore, to encounter the demand of democracy and cultural identity the king played the card of Driglam Namza and said, " One nation, one people concept is essential for the survival of Bhutan because it is very small to accommodate all."

Consequently, the thought of the monarch has created an obstacle to find a genuine solution to the plight of Bhutanese refugee crises for long.

In an attempt to solve this human and political tragedy of Bhutan, the caucus of American senators wrote a letter to the king in 1992-1993 to nip in the bud the problem created by ethnic cleansing. The State Department of human rights of America has catalogued many inhuman problems including the racist National Security Act 1992 of Bhutan. Thereafter, almost all assistant secretaries for South Asian affairs of America and Ambassadors in Nepal have led diplomatic delegation to the refugee camps and Bhutan.

In this duration, hundreds of scholars and great writers from the United States have witnessed the slums of refugee camps and collected the real information with full evidence which proves that the refugees are genuine Bhutanese. These scholars managed to snap the photographs of the houses and land in Bhutan from Sibsoo to Daifam which clearly portray illegal occupation of private property by the government during the period of mass eviction from southern and eastern Bhutan.

Not only this, President Bill Clinton wrote a letter to the king showing American concern to the ethnic cleansing of Bhutan.

But instead of looking into the matter with sincerity and honesty, the Druk government kept giving false assurances of political settlement of the Bhutanese refugees for the last decade. Harassed and exhausted America has now brought the concept of third country settlement. But this concept shows door to two dangerous direction; 1. It indicates reward to the racist government and 2. Dishonor the right of the self-determination.

On top of this, there is high chance of very strong affection of homesickness amongst the resettled refugees which could ignite the revolutionary actions against the troublemakers of Bhutan with greater energy and enthusiasm because the movement
then will be having better financial position than today.

In this regard, the champion of democracy and the largest democracy of the world needs to ponder about the future consequences in the boiling pan of Northeast India as well as South Asian region and provide prudent action and suggestion to Bhutan for the resolution of the Bhutanese refugee problem. The genuine solution is not other than early repatriation of all Bhutanese with dignity and honor.

The allegation of non-Bhutanese in the camps is absolutely baseless otherwise Bhutanese regime wouldn't flee from the verification exercise.

(The writer is former National Assembly member of Bhutan)

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