The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Thursday, October 19, 2006


Taking a new turn “Bhutan Talk” asked a few elite member representatives of Bhutan’s Diaspora and people related to them on the periphery of putative 2008 changes in the country. Some of the replies are unbreakable, even an attempt would spoil their integrity; hence they are here in their true forms.

Narayan sharma is associated with Law University in South India. Manorath Sharma works as Information Technology IT professional in Nepal. Bhim Bastola is a chartered accountant stationed and available for contact in Kathmandu, Delhi and Dubai. Abi Narayan is a head Teacher in a popular senior School in Western Nepal. All of them have deep knowledge of Bhutanese history and are closely observing the overall developments going on in Bhutan. More views will be added in course of time.

Bhutan Talk (BT): What is your alignment in the moment for democracy in Bhutan?
Narayan: - There is a ubiquitous propaganda that the Constitution and the proposed democracy in Bhutan is a gift of the palace to the people of Bhutan. However, the Bhutanese of Nepali ethnicity have for a long time strived for the establishment of democracy in Bhutan. Right from the time of the formation of the Bhutan state congress in 1952, there has remained a profound effort of this community for the cause of democracy. The opposition movement in the late 80’s and early 90’s and the continuing struggle from exile have actually culminated in the changes taking place in Bhutan. That being said, one needs to understand that the Royal Government of Bhutan has hijacked the agenda for which the Bhutanese people have been fighting for over half a century now. It is working hard to propagate that the changes are a benign move initiated by the palace. The sacrifices made by the people in over 50 years of struggle are systematically obliterated. As if that were not enough, that very institution of democracy for which people have sweated, bled and toiled is now being used against those very people to exclude them from all future political process in that country.
As a young student who was forced to leave my country in the early 1990’s I have suffered similarly as have done the others. If the RGOB today attempts to hype its image, because of the preparation for a democracy, the veracity of which remains to be tested, it should be thankful to the people who actually fought for it. The weak, the old, the hungry, the martyred and the suffering masses in exile are the ones whose contribution has culminated into the changes in Bhutan. To that extent all of us are a part of the process. Sadly however, we are in effect excluded from the process we ourselves were actually fighting for in our own ways.

Manorath:- Repatriation is more important than democracy for the Bhutanese in exile. The RGOB, though in its own tune, is doing whatever it can towards establishing good democratic governance in the country. This is a positive direction because at least something is happening in the name of democracy in the country.
Bhim: I am for an equitable settlement of refugee crisis first. The movement will resume once this problem is solved. Remember, the regime rendered us powerless before talking about any political changes within Bhutan. Solving the refugee crisis is the need of the hour whereby our common people will be empowered to earn a living. Contributions for movement will follow. Political leaders will not have to beg for alms, people will force them to work for democracy.
Abi: I used to be a member of BNDP (Bhutan National Democratic Party, one of the political parties formed in exile)* formed to bring in democracy in Bhutan but now I'm independently observing and studying the problem.

Bhutan Talk (BT): 2008 is premeditated for democratic changes, passing over of the throne, 100 years of the establishment of monarchy, general election and end to the refugee issue. Where do you stand in this troubled water?
Narayan: - While democracies elsewhere are instituted to guarantee the rights of the people, the case of Bhutan’s proposed democracy is just the reverse. 2008 is reportedly scheduled for the first ever-general election in Bhutan thereby enabling the institution of the first democratically elected government. Democracy essentially ought to be an inclusive form of governance wherein concerns of all people cutting across ethnic, lingual, political and cultural lines are respected. One essential tenet of democracy is agreeing to disagree. That of course is the last thing the Bhutanese rulers can think of. The proposed Bhutanese democracy is premised on principles of exclusion that in turn is based on the RGOB’s larger agenda of cultural nationalism. The draft constitution of Bhutan is an exclusionary document that has excluded the Bhutanese refugees and their concerns. The Draft in effect legitimizes the arbitrary 1985 citizenship law, which lies at the core of the Bhutanese refugee problem, and has attempted to seal the future and fate of the Bhutanese refugees. See for instance Article 6 of the Bhutan Draft constitution. This complicates the solution seeking process and at a time when the RGOB was engaged with the Nepal government in the bilateral exercise, Bhutan was unilaterally busy in excluding the refugees and their concerns in all future constitutional and political process in Bhutan. This stands testimony of the genre of commitment of the RGOB. There is a clear nexus between the arbitrary 1985 Citizenship Act, the Provision on Citizenship of the Draft Constitution, the Unilateral Conditions set by the RGOB after the results of verification were made public for the returnees to fulfill should they opt to return to Bhutan. Read together with these, the circular issued by the then Deputy Home Minister of Bhutan in 1990, which fixes guilt by association and accordingly confiscated the citizenship of every Bhutanese from whose household one or more members participated in the anti-government protest in 1990. What we therefore see today in Bhutan is a subtle attempt to create a sectarian state based on the culture and ethos of the ruling community and the whole purpose of the 2008 election is to exclude the Bhutanese refugees from all future political process in the country. The RGOB desires to utilize its improved image of a democratic state to further malign the refugees and thereby to abandon them permanently. Bhutan begins its honeymoon with the draft constitution by systematically flouting inviolable principles of international law including those implicit in CRC and CEDAW both of which Bhutan is a party to, human rights standards and one of its own principles of governance, included under Article 9 (24) of the Draft which calls upon the state to “foster respect for international law and treaty obligations”. While the Bhutanese monarch draws wide applause from the media and Bhutan observers, over a hundred thousand Bhutanese refugees are quietly at the verge of losing their precious right to citizenship. The Government should urgently amend the provision on citizenship before its adoption and undertake to repatriate all willing Bhutanese refugees and work for their reintegration in the national mainstream so as to extirpate the possibility of people resorting to extra-constitutional means for safeguarding their rights. The attention of the free people world over ought to go to these facets of the draft constitution and pre-empt Bhutan from adopting a document that threatens statelessness to about one-sixth of its people. The Bhutanese democracy proposed in 2008 as a creature of this constitution does not reveal anything hopeful for the refugees. This is the final blueprint of the RGOB in pursuance of its exclusionary politics and the creation of an ethnocratic nation. The international community should act swiftly to evade such an eventuality. What we need is an inclusive institution that represents the ethos of all the people in the country, cutting across ethnic, lingual and cultural lines. Bhutanese Democracy is intensely meaningless unless it includes the over-all concerns of the Bhutanese refugees

Manorath:- I do not see any trouble here as it is "premeditated" as you see. Everything should go as scheduled and this is good for everybody.

Bhim: It is good that 2008 is slated as such. But my skepticism reinforces with “passing over the throne” which does not mean throwing the throne down into Thinchhu. Further, 100 years of Monarchy reasserts itself into “We have ruled unchallenged for 100 years and you can safely assume we will rule you into the recent century”. General Election, we can reasonably interpret what it means in the context of Bhutan. End to the refugee “issue”, not necessarily an equitable and justifiable solution to the problem. It is only and ‘end’ to an issue and not a ‘solution’ to a problem. No political process will bring lasting peace unless it is inclusive enough to engage people of all ethnicities and social standing.
Abi: The so-called democratic changes in 2008 are only to eyewash the international community. The suppressed Nepalese group of people still living there will enjoy no benefit as very rarely one or two of our people come in the forefront of Bhutanese politics.

Bhutan Talk (BT): Three options are floated to put an end to the refugee crisis. Why is there a delay in the implementation? Which option should be pushed ahead and with what force?

Narayan: - Three durable solutions, namely, Voluntary Repatriation, Local Integration and Third Country Settlement are identified to take any refugee crisis to a logical conclusion. It is not just the question of the Bhutanese refugees and theoretically speaking, all these are applicable to the Bhutanese refugee situation as well. The UNHCR is mandated by its statute to strive towards a durable solution deemed feasible in the given context of a particular refugee situation. That being said, it is recognized that Voluntary Repatriation of refugees to their country of origin in conditions of safety and honor is the Most Preferred durable Solution. The recognition of Voluntary Repatriation as the most preferred durable solution emanates from the fact that most of the contemporary refugee situations are characterized by mass influx movement of people across international borders. It is indeed a difficult job to integrate such a huge human population in a new national mainstream. That apart, sectarian and racist regime responsible for creating the human menace go scot-free, without having had to fulfill their state responsibility and the host country is unnecessarily burdened with the mammoth task of maintaining the refugees during their period of stay in exile as refugees and often integrating them in their national mainstream. Given the fact that the current refugee situation is generally a developing and under-developed country phenomenon, it is indeed difficult to integrate a huge foreign population in the national mainstream of the country given the fragility of its economic base and socio-political instability. One has to recognize the fact that naturalization ipso facto does not complete integration. It involves a complete socio-political and economic integration of the target population in the national mainstream of the host country. It is a formidable challenge of the 21st century. Voluntary repatriation as the most preferred durable solution of the three also emanates from the fact that it takes into cognizance the right to return of people to their country of origin. Right to Return is an important right available to the people especially the citizens of a country. That being said, it is important to note that right to Return although often termed as a Peremptory Principle of International Law, does not show consistent adherence in state practice. What if, the state of origin, denies entry to its citizens. That is the peculiar situation faced today by the Bhutanese refugees. International Refugee law essentially drawn in the Context of the Cold War is asylum centric. The question of Burden Sharing and State responsibility of the Country of Origin, the issue of Right to Return profoundly important in a refugee situation especially in the contemporary ones characterized by mass influx forced movement of people are conspicuous with their absence in the Refugee Convention. Regional developments in refugee instruments have made amends in these issues. However, south Asia, despite having a long hospitable history of hosting and protecting refugees and asylum seekers does not have a specific refugee regime to deal with the case of refugees. Ad hocism, administrative convenience and political expediency define the standard of treatment accorded to refugees while in exile and bilateral engagement the only creed in solving problems. This gives rise to an evil: that problem of refugees becomes a refugee problem of the state actors and refugees become victim of diplomatic vagrancies. It is in this background, we are needed to find a solution to the Bhutanese refugee situation.
The talk of Third country settlement has featured quite frequently in the Bhutanese refugee situation in the recent months. The Kuensel as usual, was over enthusiastic to report the offer made by the US government to settle willing “People in the Camps in Eastern Nepal” in USA. I personally am not sure as to how genuine is the offer. Bhutan knows that its interest would be best served if all or most of the refugees agree to the offer of third country settlement. That would be a Dream come True to Bhutan and would be a success story of its ethnic policy. Lets examine as to why the solution seeking process in the Bhutanese refugee situation has led us no-where making the situation protracted or to use the wordings of your question, delay in implementation. One issue should be abundantly clear to all the actors in the Bhutanese refugee situation especially the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB}, that unless a holistic, inclusive and a composite solution is enabled for the Bhutanese refugees, the problem will not end. By saying composite, holistic and inclusive solution, I mean that all the three options should be open to the refugees in a free environment and it should be their voluntary decision as to which of the three they desire to opt. The RGOB wrongly believes that by denying repatriation to the Bhutanese refugees, it is creating environment conducive for the refugees to opt for third country settlement who would move away to distant lands thereby freeing itself from its state responsibility without actually needing to take back its citizens. Rather than doing so, RGOB’s action is making the Bhutanese Refugees especially the youths increasingly resolute to fight back for the effective realization of their rights. I do not think that the majority of the refugees are willing to accept any imposed solution. There should be no push factors created in the country of origin to discourage people from repatriation as also no push factors from the host country to hasten a solution. However, the RGOB tends to believe that an indefinite delay on its part will eventually force all the Bhutanese refugees to move away to third countries. Nothing could be more wrong. Bhutanese refugees have often organized spontaneous repatriation programs in the past despite the conditions in the country of origin remaining the same. This should be evidence enough for the RGOB that delay will not tire the Bhutanese refugees. You will need to wait to believe. The RGOB finds an easy escape: that Nepal government is not prepared. And given the turbulence in Nepal, the international community seemingly tends to believe the Bhutanese propaganda. If the RGOB was sincere why does it then hesitate to accept, despite its own findings after the verification of the refugees that there are Bhutanese citizens in the camps? Why the usage “People in the Camps in Eastern Nepal”? And as claimed by the RGOB, if the refugees were not Bhutanese why did it need to engage Nepal in the bilateral process in the first place? A majority of the refugees have proven their claim that they are Bhutanese citizens, passed an examination under a very hostile examiner! And it is at this phase that the RGOB is inventing fresher excuses and allegations. The RGOB would want us believe that a huge human population resolved one fine morning that they wanted to leave Bhutan in the height of monsoon, forfeit voluntarily their citizenship, chose benevolently to leave back everything that they had earned for generations, move empty handed to another country and opted the most abominable life of a refugee. Indeed a cruel joke! RGOB’s refugee policy is a delaying strategy with the ill-advised belief that delaying would absolve itself of its state responsibility. Why does it propose a volley of conditions for returnees to fulfill even after finding that there are genuine Bhutanese in the camps expelled by the government? Because truth is not with the RGOB it is bound to make a bundle of contradictions. The following emerge:
That RGOB’s refugee policy is the sole reason for the delay in implementing any solution and unless Bhutan shows genuine commitment to repatriate all willing Bhutanese, there will be no end to the Bhutanese Refugee Crisis.
That a composite and an all inclusive solution that respects the Right to return of the refugees on the one hand and the voluntary character of their decision as to which solution the Bhutanese refugees intend to opt for on the other need to be enabled.
That all the three solutions should be made available simultaneously.

Manorath:- There is definitely delay in the other two options ((i.e. Third country settlement and host country settlement) because of the following reasons:
1. There is no repatriation (RGOB should start the ball rolling first!!)
2. The Host country and the International community have been torturously lengthening in internationalizing the Bhutanese refugee issue. The refugees in the camps are living as Asylum Seekers (Political implications!!). They should be recognized as "refugees" according to the standards of UNHCR so that other options could also be explored for the willing ones.

Bhim: The basic tenet here again is empowerment. Repatriation with full political and economic rights and/or third country settlement are to be opted for. It is a double edged sword for Bhutan and other power(s) in play. I think implementation comes in picture only when there is a concrete plan of action. Till now, parties to the crisis, UNHCR and Nepal Govt. had not planned in unison. Things are gathering shape now. Hence delay in moving forward.

Third country settlement option should be pushed with utmost gusto since any further turmoil in Bhutan will receive an immediate attention of the west through the compatriots who have settled in there. Any future exodus may reasonably be avoided to remain in limbo unlike the present one. Secondly, the seeds for democratic have been sown. These seeds will fructify only when our people are economically self reliant.
Abi: Three options floated for solving the refugee imbroglio definitely do little harm for solving long standing complicated problem. Not all the Bhutanese want to go back to Bhutan, nor all want to go to America. I think Bhutan would be very happy if America takes the refugee as soon as possible. The delaying part is done by Nepal Government which has its own vested interest to exploit.

Bhutan Talk (BT): Are there any international directives (pressures) over the RGOB now? If yes, of what type?
Narayan: - I do not think that there is any meaningful pressure built upon the RGOB. If so were the case, the RGOB would not have been able to continue evading its genuine and legitimate responsibility. One issue merits mention at this point. The status- quoist policy of the government of India has been a bonus to the RGOB. The events in Nepal in the first quarter of this year patently evidence Indian influence on the countries in the region. Of course Nepalese fought more resolutely than perhaps anytime in the past. Did not the Bhutanese fight in their own way? 16 continuous years of appeal and prayers, representations and deputations! Does it really mean that it is only strength that matters? Where then are we pushing the Bhutanese refugee youths to? Who should be responsible for an eventuality if Bhutanese refugees take up arms? India as the largest democracy in the world is expected to define its foreign policy not solely on its political expediency but on sound principles of democratic ideals. However, the government of India has maintained a consistent position that the issue needs to be resolved bilaterally, and seemingly does not desire to frustrate the prevailing relationship with Bhutan. A fair mediation on India’s part does not necessarily mean frustrating her relationship with Bhutan. An unresolved Bhutanese refugee issue can exacerbate tension of a regional dimension as a fifty thousand or more unemployed Bhutanese refugee youths with no future, misguided by various interests groups ample in the region, are a potential danger. This fragilely contained vulnerable group by the older refugee leadership thus far deserves a cautious treatment from all actors well in time. It has potential to cause serious humanitarian and security concern in the region, which calls for a swift action that a solution is determined for the Bhutanese refugees in the near future. India’s good offices can play a determinative role if exercised timely and cautiously.
That being said, the UNHCR as the only internationally mandated body should seek a larger participation from the international community, especially the donor countries to Bhutan, Other organs of the United Nations, the implementing partners and the like. UNHCR has the mandate to facilitate and promote repatriation, which of course cannot be effectuated in an environment where the country of origin is opposed to its participation in the solution seeking process, and the circumstances that triggered the refugee situation remain unchanged. UNHCR should not of course resign to the myth of being an apolitical body. As is said, one meaning of being political is the preference of one policy perspective over another, and in that context UNHCR is a political body as it works to influence policies of various actors in its mission of international protection. The call of its statute that the agency remain a non-political body was perhaps something befitting the context at the time of framing of the statute. It should be contextualized and so long as the agency works for the benefit of the refugees, it should not couch itself within that narrow frame. International protection includes quest of durable solutions and repatriation being one of the most significant durable solutions of the three, the refugee agency needs to be pro-active. International pressure needs to be built upon recalcitrant governments and UNHCR should undertake extensive lobbying functions in realizing this right of the refugees. The reported offer of the US government to settle a good section of the refugees in its national mainstream, if genuine, is a laudatory step. However, let not the refugees be forced this solution. As the leading democracy of the world, it ought to realize that there are Bhutanese who desire to return. All such benevolent governments should first get the sense of the Bhutanese refugee community as to what they actually desire. Are they accepting other solutions because Bhutan is able to evade its state responsibility or is it their informed choice? If former is the case, the state of origin should be persuaded to do everything possible to enable return of refugees, in an environment free of fear. In fact the international community, especially the donor countries and the UN organs assisting the development projects of a refugee generating country should push through the agenda of conditional grant and assistance. Is it not the purpose of the United Nations to create a world free of oppression and fear and discrimination? Why then do we allow member countries to violate the very purpose of the world body? Of what relevance is the UDHR and a host of treaties that states commit to fulfill and then flout them most systematically? International solidarity should go with the oppressed. We cannot have a peaceful earth if the rights of the weak are not respected.

Manorath:- Yes there are pressures on the RGOB both international and national but it has been so far able to thwart them because of the following reasons:
1. Too much of support to the refugee producing regime by the world's largest democracy in the world blissfully forgetting the democratic principles it advocates elsewhere in the world.
2. RGOB machinery is too disciplined as compared to the refugee groups. The refugee groups existing today are simply incompetent to deal with the propaganda machinery of the RGOB.
3. The host country in engulfed in its own internal problems and the JMCs have been so far not fruitful.
Bhim: Can’t say.
Abi: As far as I know, the International Pressure is to cut of the aids and donation and to bring Bhutan to table. But it seems Bhutan's lobbying part has outsmarted the gravity of our problem. And the truth is no country would poke their nose to interfere the sovereignty and unique culture if there is no t any potential benefit.

Bhutan Talk (BT): How will be the Bhutan’s foreign policies after 2008?
Narayan: - Depends. Depends upon the vibrancy of the political institution to be instituted. I do not however guess that there would be much of a shift in its foreign policy immediately after 2008. Bhutan’s relationship with India would continue being based on the 1949 Treaty framework. It is in the best interest of Bhutan to continue having cordial relationship with India.

Manorath:- There will not be significant changes except as demanded by the country's national interests as everything is "premeditated". However, the Bhutanese Government will have tough time sidelining the refugee issue then!!!
Bhim: The changes envisaged on and after 2008 are engineered to what ends, we all know. So a cosmetic change in foreign policies is for sure in the offing. The most important aspect is not who likes the change but it is who is ready to relinquish.
Abi: More open and accommodating.

Bhutan Talk (BT): Why is population figure of Bhutan atypical? What makes people inside Bhutan speak that democracy is early for them?

Narayan: - How do you verify that it is the people saying so? Do not you really think that it is the government press as self-appointed peoples’ representatives making statements on their behalf. That of course gives a sense of self-satisfaction. “That despite people not willing, our benign government is devolving power and democratizing the system. We are indeed enlightened”.

Manorath:- This is a play of politics to manipulate the ethnic demography so that the ruling regime is always at ease. There are other subtle factors as well. Some people inside Bhutan speak that democracy is early for them because they have not had the opportunity to see the other alternative!!!.

Bhim: They mistake democracy for republic. It is not population but it is the attitude and mindset the deciding factor for how we govern ourselves. The gap lies in lack of awareness about the good sides of true democracy.
Abi: To derive larger benefit from the UN Bhutan exaggerated its pop in the beginning. That 1.7 million number has not reached so far. It is conglomeration of reaching the country at different times. I think democracy should be ushered only when there is high degree of literacy and standard of living among the people which I think Bhutan would take long time to reach that state.

Bhutan Talk (BT): Will the political parties formed in exile get legitimacy to contest in the first election? What is the development so far, in this context?

Narayan: - This question needs to be seen in the larger context of Bhutan’s ethnic policies. Bhutan thus far continues to ostracize the Bhutanese refugees and the political parties and other organizations formed in exile and continues with the policy of prohibiting them in the Bhutanese political scene. All organizations formed in exile are branded anti-national. There is no dividing line in the diction of the Bhutanese rulers between opposing the government’s policies on the one hand and opposing the nation on the other. That is quite profoundly explained by the concept of Tsa Wa Sum, the meaning of which varies in accordance with the need of the people in power there. As reiterated elsewhere, the sole purpose of the proposed Bhutanese democracy is exclusionary. It is therefore that the makers of the Bhutan’s constitution have scrupulously drafted Article 6 of the constitution wherein a person who has spoken or acted against the King Country and the government shall be excluded from any consideration for Bhutanese Citizenship. It in effect legitimizes the arbitrary 1985 Law that lies at the core of the refugee issue. If this is not to exclude the Bhutanese refugees then what is? Let us examine the draft constitution’s provisions on Political parties. The draft requires a political party to be broad-based with cross national membership and support for the Election commission to consider its registration. The provision looks fine at the face. However, when anything that is southern Bhutanese is stigmatized by the state and the rest of the population polarized against the Nepali Bhutanese in general and the Bhutanese refugees in particular, one cannot expect the political parties formed by any Nepali Bhutanese gain cross national membership and support, in a strict sense of the term. That would enable the election Commission subjectively deny registration to such political groups. Where is then free political process? Where is the modicum of political space? For anyone unaware of the subtleties of the functioning of the Bhutanese government, it would perhaps be difficult to envision this proposition of mine. The government has done everything at its disposal to malign the Southern Bhutanese. It has popularized slogans like Greater Nepal, Sikkimization of Bhutan or creation of an autonomous region within the present Bhutan. No political party formed by the southern Bhutanese has ever talked of these things. See the demands, for instance posed by the BPP, one of the first organizations to be branded anti national. They reflect a genuine concern of a people oppressed. See the manifesto of other political parties formed later, the BNDP or the DNC. They have just talked of democratization of the Bhutanese Polity. If the RGOB is headed towards a genuine democracy why does it hesitate to recognize and legitimize these and many other political forces? Why do they still remain anti national in the RGOB’s diction? All these are explanatory of the RGOB’s subtle intent in the political process. Because the Constitution and the general election are purposive of a premeditated agenda, I do not guess the political forces formed in exile will be allowed participation in not only the first general election but in all others in future should things go according the RGOB’s plans.

Manorath:- In a democracy the citizens prevail at all times. The political parties in exile should re-orient themselves (if needed) according to the dynamics of the country's national interest and geopolitical considerations.

Bhim: I think the answer lies in the question itself. When we are talking about a genuine election where political parties represent the aspirations of the people of Bhutan, the badge of legitimacy should not be sought from an external artificial source. Democracy itself gives legitimacy to the will of the people. Therefore, parties in exile should generate support of and represent people within Bhutan. I lament time is running out.
Abi: First thing is will there be repatriation of the refugees at all before the election and even if there is repatriation, what % will be repatriated and of that number what percentage will be willing to go back and will the parties be welcomed or be dissolved before entering, etc, etc. So it will be prematurely said if any thing is to be said in affirmative.

Bhutan Talk (BT): India had been assisting rather regulating Bhutan’s foreign policy, security and finance? What changes will democracy bring in this trend?
Narayan: - Perhaps this question is answered before I actually begin answering it. The primary intention of the Bhutanese democracy is being spoken of in detail. In all probabilities the current pattern of relational chemistry would continue between Bhutan and India.

Manorath:- I am not sure whether India is regulating or assisting the Bhutan's foreign policy. According to the treaty it should be regulating the foreign policy of Bhutan.

Bhim: Brother, it is not only a trend but an established process within geopolitical realities that India has been doing so. Do not call me a pessimist. Rather I want to be realist in so far as highlighting my surmises that this situation will continue in one form or the other for quite a long time.
Abi: Bhutan's foreign policy, defense and currency are India pegged. Bhutan will take long time to get itself free from these shackles.

Bhutan Talk (BT): Who all are responsible for the refugee crisis?

Narayan: - The Bhutanese Refugee crisis is a manifestation of the larger ethnic policy of the RGOB and its population politics. The RGOB began the current trend of its ethnic policy in the 60’s. Its larger agenda has been cultural nationalism. It began its assimilationist agenda that was directed at obliterating the cultural base of the southern Bhutanese. For instance, observe carefully the 1977 amendment to the Nationality Act of Bhutan. It clearly reflects the cultural concerns of the RGOB and its homogenizing agenda. Examine the Marriage Law and the incentive for cross-cultural marriage. That was an assimilationist effort. Examine further, the One Nation, One People Policy, the Social Code of Conduct or Driglamnamzag, The Dress Policy, the Language policy; all these and many more explain the assimilationist strategies of the RGOB. Failing in this, it began the final onslaught with its exclusionist agenda. The 1985 Citizenship Law, the Census exercise, the categorization of people in 7 groups, the No Objection Certificate Policy, Exclusion of southern Bhutanese from recruitment and Promotions, compulsory retirement, Ban on free movement from one place to another, and many more explain the exclusionist policy of the RGOB. Its immediate intention was to expel as many southern Bhutanese as possible and hence the concept of Voluntary Migration Forms while its long term strategy has been to make Bhutan an ethnocratic nation based on the ethos of the ruling community. Assimilationist and failing that exclusionist. Simply, either “you” are one of “Us” and shall behave and act as one of “Us” or you are not here at all! The refugee crisis is a singular creation of the Royal Government of Bhutan. When it had to hesitantly enter into bilateral engagement with Nepal and a majority of the refugees, successfully corroborated their claims to Bhutanese Citizenship, it has erected further strategies to deny return. Today, it is talking of a legalistic solution to the Bhutanese Refugee Crisis when it actually needs to take a political decision to reverse its earlier decisions. The Bhutanese National Assembly now resolves that any solution to the problems of the “People in the Camps in Eastern Nepal” shall be dealt in accordance with “1. Our Nationality Laws and 2. National Assembly Resolutions”. Shielding itself behind its laws, the RGOB now pre-empts the solution seeking process. There is absolutely no doubt that the refugee crisis is a result of the larger agenda of ethnic policy of the RGOB and in an attempt to ferociously defend that, prevents a solution to the refugee impasse.

Manorath:- Every literate Bhutanese individual minus the innocent mass in the camps in Nepal is responsible for this human catastrophe.
Bhim: The genesis of the problem lies in the well programmed discriminatory policies of the RGOB. The so called political leaders fell prey to the designs and added fuel to fire.
Abi: Our naïve netas(leaders)*. Without preparing the people for the movement few of them sat around a table, half boozed, and jointly took a bold yet unscrupulous step to stand before a government.

Bhutan Talk (BT): What are/were the threats and benefits behind the presence of ULFA and Bodo activists in Bhutan? Was the security of Bhutan endangered by their presence?

Narayan: -
I cannot of course envisage any benefit with the presence of any insurgent groups in our country. The sovereignty of Bhutan is and needs to be our prime concern, whether we are inside or outside Bhutan. In fact the government of the day in Bhutan was anti-national by not taking adequate care as to the entry of the insurgents in the Bhutanese territory. It boomeranged. And I do not guess that Bhutan government would have agreed to operation all clear without a persistent Indian pressure. Of course Bhutan’s security was under a threat and enough caution needs to be exercised in all the days to come in that regard.
Manorath:- As far as southern Bhutanese are concerned, this is an unfortunate event. The exile population alone is capable of handling them if any threat to the country's security arises once they return Bhutan. Till then, it is the responsibility of the RGOB and the other remaining citizens to see that the country is not endangered by their presence and also that they do not pose problems to India living in the Bhutanese soil.

Bhim: The presence of dissident groups of a foreign state in another nation state does not at all bode well for its security and Bhutan cannot be an exception. Though the regime, through clandestine means, encouraged them to put up tents within its soil, they soon proved to be a big liability. Initially, they were pitted against our splinter militant groups operating from within and across the border.
Abi: Benefit would be to those of our faction Maoist group who are preparing to stage guerrilla warfare inside Bhutan. Of course, this itself is a problem posed against the RGOB. ULFA and BODO presence inside Bhutan would only welcome more activities of the Indian army in Bhutan.

Bhutan Talk (BT): What is the probability of rise of extremism in Bhutan?
Narayan: - There is a strong possibility. It needs to be avoided. And the primary onus lies on the RGOB, which is however, arrogant and insulated. Maddened with its own agenda, it does not realize that it is pushing the country to a conflict of a serious dimension. The younger generation Bhutanese inside Bhutan should reflect upon these issues.

Manorath:- The exiled population is pushed to the wall by the different players in this horrendous game. Extremism in Bhutan is a possibility if the suffering continues.

Bhim: There is all likeliness as the RGOB seems hell bent on continuing the same policies with of course a slightly less intensity and different form.
Abi: From Ngalung(ruling tribe initially in the north west of Bhutan, king is supposed to belong to this group)* may be no, but there is a high chance from the side of Sarchops(people living in the East part of Bhutan, believed to have been in majority before the census of 2005)*.

Bhutan Talk (BT): How many members are there in the royal family? What percentage of the national budget goes to the palace? What are other incomes and income sources of (for) the members of royal family?
Narayan: - I will need to learn more on that before I enable myself to comment.
Manorath:- I do not want to comment on the Royal Privileges. Kings must have Royal Privileges because they are kings and this is the norm since prehistoric times when kingship came into existence for the protection of the people under its purview.

Bhim: There is no debate to the stranglehold enjoyed by the family. It is undisputed. The degree should not be a subject of debate as in doing so, we legitimise such hold. The solution lies in putting an end to such monopoly on the national resources.
Abi: I have little knowledge to talk on this point.
Bhutan Talk (BT): How will Bhutan be 10 years from now?
Narayan: - Depends entirely upon how the present day government approaches the refugee problem. If it undertakes to assume its responsibility, allow desirous Bhutanese refugees return, integrate them in the national mainstream and allow them their legitimate due, there is no reason why Bhutanese should not be a wonderful society. If the RGOB continues its present trend, there are chances that Bhutan enters a serious ethnic conflict. We would hope that Bhutan works to avoid such an eventuality.
Manorath:- This is an information age. Everything happens rapidly. 10 years is very a long time and Bhutan will be very much different than it is now
Abi: Quite same. Quite like that of unstable Nepal.

Bhutan Talk (BT): Last, your message to the people.

Narayan: -
To The King of Bhutan:
Your majesty, the world calls you an enlightened ruler. However, the current refugee policy perpetuated by the RGOB does not reflect that. This policy will not lead the country and future generation to peace. The future generation will suffer.
To the Bhutanese Inside Bhutan:
Shed the prejudice and introspect. If you were to be put to the same test by way of an arbitrary census exercise as were the southern Bhutanese none of you would have qualified and would be languishing today somewhere as we are now. You would not have forgiven your government and neither the Bhutanese refugees will. Do not rejoice. Believe in objective findings and not on propaganda. You will do justice to the country and all the generations to come.
To The Bhutanese Refugees:
Think resolutely and act accordingly.

Manorath:- Don't quarrel over petty matters; see unity in diversity because this is a godly thing to do. Diversity in unity is a devilish trait according to the holiest scriptures.
Bhim: Never give up.
Abi: If we have to fight back a government for our rights, let's be more literate on what rights and duties are and what the benefits of a democracy are. Then only we have to join our hands to fight for the rights bravely.
*[The words and phrases in italics, inside parenthesis are added by the webmaster].

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