The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Saturday, March 23, 2013


May 16, 1991

His Majesty the King,
Thimphu, Bhutan.

Your Majesty,

Most humbly I beg to submit the following:

I am grateful for the recent promotion to the rank of Director General granted to me by your Majesty. In view of the current situation prevailing in the Kingdom I am certain the decision to honour me through a promotion was made after due deliberations by the Royal Government. I have, likewise, given this matter the most serious consideration before coming to my decision.

Your Majesty, as a nationalist concerned with the fate and destiny of my country, like most, I watched the unfolding development with trepidation. The ordeal worsened with each passing day as the Royal Government hardened its attitude not just against the militants outside but even against innocent subjects within. Your Majesty, by inference from the actions taken to date and the views of the official media, it is amply clear that the Government has never seen this issue as being on between dissidents and the Government, but one origin. This has been the most painful truth that the Southern Bhutanese people have now learnt. The Southern Bhutanese of Nepalese origin are Your Majesty’s subjects as much as Bhutanese from other parts of the Kingdom. Your Majesty inherited this ethnic group along with the Kingdom. From the time of the first King, Your Majesty’s great-grandfather, the two main ethnic groups have survived and lived in harmony. In the numerous attempts that have been made to topple the Wangchuck dynasty the Southern Bhutanese are unwanted subjects is gravely unjust. Having worked sincerely and diligently towards building a better Bhutan, I personally feel cheated by the way the Government has done everything in its powers to destroy the peace and harmony that existed till the recent past.

Your Majesty, with the hope that justice will one day prevail, I was able to control my dismay and emotions when suspicion and mistrust fell upon anyone from Southern Bhutan. I withstood the outright racist attacks unleashed on the Southern Bhutanese by the Government through the Kuensel. I retained my sanity and hoped for an eventual return of rationality even as systematic harassment of the people in the Southern districts continued. I have sympathized with the people in my own home district of Chirang, and continue to share their suffering as the Government methodically deprives them of the bare necessities of survival. But when tiny children are subjected to the wrath of the Government, I believe the time has definitely come to distance oneself from the Administration.

The sea change from peace to chaos has only required two years. It requires no hindsight to realize that the spark which ignited the fire certainly did not come from the people but from the Royal Government itself. Is it simply a righteous policy gone awry or a purposeful policy conceived to intentionally create this current crisis so that the domination of one ethnic group over the others is assured for the future? Regardless of the intentions behind the spark, the Southern Bhutanese as a whole are being made to suffer, but the painful consequences cannot be avoided by the other half of the population. The future of our country itself, therefore, hangs in a precarious balance, a situation wherein Your Majesty alone, if Your Majesty so desires, can tilt the scales towards peace and stability.

Your Majesty is, I am certain, aware of the various policies currently in force primarily to harass and punish all Southern Bhutanese. There are many languishing in jails while many have been made to leave the country. The “green belt”, an issue which has absolutely no environmental basis in our context, has been revived to evict people from fertile lands. On the pretext of restricting flow of funds to dissidents, the Government has withheld from the farmers money accrued through export of cash crops. In the guise of militants, the security forces continue to rape and plunder families in Southern Bhutan.

The district of Chirang has come in for particularly harsh treatment since it is far removed from international borders, and therefore, impartial witnesses or the media. There is a total ban on movement of essentials such as common salt. Most trading licenses have been cancelled while common people are denied the right to carry such essentials from outside the district.

All the above are perhaps understandable from a Government machinery bent upon fulfilling its ill-conceived objectives. However, when the excesses have now reached a situation where children are also being penalized, my conscience will not permit me to hold myself back. I cannot bear the accusations of a six year old child denied the right to education, a penalty the child is being made to pay for the convections, right or  wrong, of older relatives. I firmly believe that the Government is morally wrong in taking these harsh and unjust steps against innocent little children. I cannot have this on my conscience, even indirectly, by being a part of the Royal Government, and therefore, have decided to resign.

In view of the current fear psychosis that now pervades among all Southern Bhutanese I have chosen to make my decision known from outside the country. I have always been apolitical, and wish to remain so, but I cannot dare hope that the administrative machinery of the Government would leave me to roam freely within Bhutan. I, therefore, beg Your Majesty’s kind understanding and forgiveness in the matter.

Your Majesty, if I am judged to have been disloyal and unpatriotic by my decision to resign, I will have cause to believe that I have been sorely misjudged. I firmly believe that in the national context loyalty is but one among many other ingredients that go towards the making of a patriotic citizen. Dedication and true commitment to the well-being of a nation as a unified entity are, in my humble opinion, other factors that define nationalism. I have reached the conclusion that what is currently taking place, and the policies that have brought us to this crisis, has its roots in the desire of the Government to instill the supremacy of one section of society over others, and, therefore, does not have the greatest of the greater interest of the nation at heart.

I am hopeful that a solution will soon be found to restore peace within the Kingdom. Bhutan cannot afford continuous strife that steadily depletes limited resources and brings much needed development to a complete halt. I pray that Your Majesty will take suitable measures to steer us back to the path of harmony, stability and prosperity.

                                                                                            I beg to remain,
Your Majesty’s most humble and obedient servant,
                                                                                  ( BHIM SUBBA)
                                                                     DEPARTMENT OF POWER

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