The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Thursday, June 30, 2022

An Encyclopedia on Bhutan

By Govinda Rizal

Dr. DNS Dhakal's new book "BHUTAN: A Memoir of Refugee Struggle and Suggestions for an Amicable Resolution" has reached the readers and critics before launching it formally.

The author's memoir, embedded in the recent political history of Bhutan and Bhutanese refugee saga, an illustrated coffee-table book targeted for the newbies to Bhutan and Bhutanese refugee issue is un-controversially the largest and the heaviest book on Bhutanese refugees.

It has over 425 pages of 29 cm by 32 cm glossy papers filled with photographs supporting his memoirs, his personal struggle, his struggle during the refugee movement, and a rich compilation of historical and movement-related documents. One book weighs about 4.5 kg. 

The book starts with an acknowledgment in which the author gives top credits to Dr. Dinesh Bhattarai from Nepal and Dr. S. Chandrasekaran from India, among others, for making the take-off of third-country resettlement of the refugees possible.

The book continues with the scenario of an identity crisis. The author clarifies his understanding of identities with terms like "Nepalese" as the citizens of Nepal, "Lhotsampa" as the Bhutanese citizens of Nepali ethnicity, and "Nepali" as Nepali diaspora living elsewhere. The book cracks the core of the context.

The entire content revolves around the life of the author. As a child, he joined his grandfather to carry salt from Sarbang to Chirang. There was no road and the 60 km two-way journey- on foot explains the hard days of rural life in Bhutan during the decade 1960.

From this autobiography, the author has successfully established himself as a credible source of Bhutan's information, many of which were not available in writing.

The book- is an album of rare photographs. Plus, there are extensive lists of people killed, imprisoned, or others who had taken part in marches and rallies and even the changed names of the places.

The author started his education at Lamidanda School and went to Kharbandi Technical School and then to Shillong, in India. Then he reached the USA for his master's and doctoral degrees. One of his professors has written the foreword on the book giving credit to Dr. Dhakal as the first person to familiarize the term gross national happiness in the USA, back in 1984-85. He further writes that the author's mother forbade him from entering her hut in the refugee camp. It explains Dhakal's family beliefs. He returned to Bhutan and accepted a government job. 

He left Bhutan with an overcoat, US dollar 150, and Ngultrum 10,000. He had a deposit of USD 3000 in the State Bank of India. An introvert in nature, the author penned his struggle from that of a salaried government servant in a prestigious position in Bhutan to a refugee in Nepal, a moneyless activist in India to an academic in America.

The book chronicles his struggles, supported by photographs and testimonies. His life has been a struggle from the day he left Bhutan. He reached Nepal and took shelter with his friends and relatives. The refugees formed a new political party- the Bhutan National Democratic Party and choose Dr. Dhakal as its General Secretary. He had ideas and no money.

He ran out of his savings. He depended on one of his brothers-in-law for everyday expenses. He reached the point of begging. He was in New Delhi, where he ran out of his last rupee. He and his friends begged for rice for a meal.

Then he developed the confidence to tell his situation to his links with American academicians. He had to go to America for the job but had to struggle for a travel document- that was a one-page paper [page 290].

His struggle makes the readers' eyes drench in tears when an immigration officer at Frankfurt Airport, trying to help him, was helpless for he had a one-page paper as a travel document. They allowed him to board the plane on the condition that his entry into the USA depended on the discretion of US immigration officials. He had to disembark from the plane last, accompanied by an attendant. On landing in the US, a senior immigration officer accepted the paper and offered him sanctuary. The author writes "tears of happiness rolled down my checks." It transmits the same emotion to the readers.

He explains his journey to the world of academia for money to sustain himself, support his family, and run a political party. With an annual income of USD 8000, he could meet his needs, support his family, fund party activities, and perform religious functions.

He writes short and to the point. He writes the history and highlights of each district in less than one hundred words and inserts over two pages of photographs. The book is an illustrated encyclopedia in terms of size and content. It is an encyclopedia of Dr. Dhakal's struggle alongside the Bhutanese movement- where the hundreds of thousands of Bhutanese nationals were made refugees in Nepal and airlifted by advanced countries as their adopted citizens.

There are spotlight mentions of success stories from resettled countries. He has picked a few motivational stories and inspirational developments. Dr. Dhakal has included strategies for the present and future generations of the Bhutanese Community to engage in.

The book is a compilation of names of personalities who have helped the author and the Bhutanese democratic movement openly or secretly. The appendix of the book is a compilation of historical treaties and political documents, photographs of kings, leaders, and community forerunners, historical lists of martyrs and activists, etc.
Anyone who has access to the encyclopedia would like to have a copy on their reading table. It is being distributed or sold through personal contacts, which makes it rare and freight cost makes it expensive. Limited people will flip over the pages of this historical encyclopedia unless more copies are printed and sold at a lower cost.

Congratulations to the Author Dr DNS Dhakal for this masterpiece.