India has encouraged Bhutan Government to intensify “ethnic cleansing”
Dhruva Joshy, Friends of Bhutan in Nepal
Introduced often as the Last Shangri-la, Bhutan is familiar abroad through two sources. One is Kuensel, a newspaper and online, the official mouthpiece of the Royal government of Bhutan (RGB), which does not tire of harping on the Gross National Happiness (GNH) while a large part of its population, subsists below the poverty line. It is silent on how the population figure registered as 1.3 million, including the Lhotshampas, in the United Nations during its admission in 1971 declined to a little over 0.6 million. If the RGB can not explain this reduction, how could people believe in its claim to be a Shangri-La?
The other source through which we come to know about Bhutan is people like Tek Nath Rijal and Thinley Penjore struggling hard for the repatriation of their fellow refugees. These men of conviction have lived in Bhutan, dreamt of Bhutan and endured Bhutan, amidst the hopelessness of an endless journey of refugee life and now stuck between the two horns of a dilemma: should they still stand for repatriation, or should they abandon the whole mission in favor of expatriation?
REDISCOVERING THE ROOTS OF THE CRISIS
This rigmarole makes the refugee issue not only one of the most protracted issue of the region, but it is also probably the most neglected in the world at large. Living in the camps of south-eastern Nepal, they do not see an immediate end to their ordeal. Exceeding one hundred thousand in number, they are mostly Nepali speaking Lhotshampas. Although, in small numbers, other ethnic groups like Ngalongs, Sarchops, and Khengs also constitute the pool of the refugee community. These refugees have lived all or most of their lives in Bhutan, but they fled or were forcibly evicted from their homes in Bhutan in 1990 when the RGB introduced a highly discriminatory citizenship policy targeting the ethnic Nepalis, particularly those critical of the government policy ruled by a hereditary autocratic King, Bhutan has continuously denied recognition to the refugees as Bhutanese nationals. The RGB claims that the refugees are non-Bhutanese people or are voluntary migrants who gave up their citizenship rights voluntarily while departing. Taking the world community for a ride, the RGB wants them to believe that its own citizens, who number in thousands, voluntarily abdicated their citizenship rights. But it remains silent on why such a large number of its population would ever agree to relinquish the natural right of their citizenship. The tragic stories of these refugees, narrated and published several times, eloquently testify to the sinister design of the RGB to coerce and torture the people at gun point to leave their homes by signing the Voluntary Migration Form.
Yielding to the international pressure, Bhutan reluctantly agreed to sit with Nepal on bilateral talks and after several rounds of joint-ministerial-level (JML) talks, the two governments agreed to a joint status verification and categorization process as a precursor to repatriation. But Bhutan skillfully played with Nepal making inconsistent statements every time the talks were scheduled. In the course of verification and categorization of the refugees, the key victims of the crisis were never consulted. As a host country, Nepal should have facilitated the verification process and allowed the refugees to face the Bhutan team directly. Since it could not, the RGB has been able to gain an upper hand.
The procrastinatory stance adopted by the RGB shows that Nepal made a mistake in agreeing to Bhutan’s proposal.
The Indian apathy towards the refugee problem is another piece in the puzzle. It has encouraged the RGB to intensify ethnic cleansing. India has always maintained that it is a bilateral concern of Nepal and Bhutan, whereas the whole world knows that India can not brush its hands off the issue, as the refugees could not have been transported to Nepal without the involvement of the government of India. It is thus obvious that without the participation of India the refugee crisis can not be resolved. It is high time now for India to play a pro-active role in solving this crisis.
Under the changed political circumstances, Nepal must revisit its approach and adopt a policy of ‘Advocacy, Diplomacy and Lobbying’ (ADL) rather than acquiescence.
The RGB’s decision to exile its citizens may look at first fortuitous. A closer look, however, will show it is a well thought design to marginalize the Lhotshampas, who were exerting a profound influence on Bhutan’s life and the body politique there. Ethnic cleansing was started to counter that influence.
When Sikkim was annexed to India in 1975 by the support of Nepali population, and later when Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) raised its voice for a separate Nepali state in the Indian Union, the Druk government feared a repeat of such events. But Indira Gandhi, who was then the Prime Minister of India, assuaged Bhutan’s anxieties telling it had nothing to fear.
However, the royal government remained askance at the Nepali-speaking community. Because of their growing population and level of awareness, they formed political parties and called for democratic rights which were perceived as a threat by the rulers. The events of Sikkim and GNLF movement, moreover, offered the excuse to the RGB for its ethnic cleansing, to eliminate the threat from Nepali-speaking population in the future.
The premiership of Rajiv Gandhi, when the relation between Nepal and India was at its lowest ebb and the Gorkhaland movement in West Bengal at its zenith, brought the opportunity to the king he had been looking for long. Consulting with India on the fate of Lhotshampas, the king annulled the 1958 Citizenship Act and promulgated another one in 1985 with stringent requirements for obtaining and retaining citizenship The new act also included the provision for revocation of citizenship in case of “disloyalty” to the king and the country, an excuse the RGB used arbitrarily to denationalize large numbers of Lhotshampas when it carried out the census in the south of Bhutan in 1988. Reports were then rife that under the direction of Thimpu the local government officials had made arbitrary census classifications to dislodge the Nepali-speaking community from Bhutan.
The RGB further introduced Bhutanization measures such as “One Nation, One People” in 1989 which forced the people to adopt the dress code and termination of Nepali language in schools. In early 1990, ethnic Nepalis and others had protested by organizing large public demonstrations and forming political parties that called for multi-party democracy. The bell had begun tolling for the Thimpu regime and the RGB came heavily upon the demonstrators as the Bhutanese police and army imprisoned, raped, and tortured to death many who were associated with the demonstration.
Thousands of people either fled or were forced to leave by 1992. But before they crossed the border, the RGB also forced many to sign the “Voluntary Migration Form” to surrender their rights to Bhutanese citizenship.
After the arrival of Bhutan’s refugees, the Nepal government settled them in the camps with the assistance of UN and donor agencies wanted to open a dialogue with the Bhutanese government. However, from the very beginning, the RGB avoided talking about the refugees with the lame duck excuse that they were not Bhutanese nationals. It was only later that it finally agreed to do it after tremendous international pressure was mounted.
Since, the first bilateral talk between Nepal and Bhutan in 1993, nearly sixteen rounds of meetings have been held only to get nowhere. To eschew, censure from the international community Bhutan does skillfully engage itself in bilateral talks, but it never loses a single opportunity to delay or cancel the meeting whenever possible.
The first “verification process” of 12,500 refugees in Khudunabari camp by the joint team on 14 December 2001 revealed the presence of 75% Bhutanese there. Shocked the RGB remained silent for a year or so. Pressure was mounting and the Bhutanese team took two years to announce their decision on the verification results, but with a preemptive strategy to derail the process. The team, moreover, used abusive language provoking the so-called scuffle. Unable to face the refugees, and abandoning all diplomatic norms, the Bhutanese team left in a huff without even informing the host country.
All efforts by the RGB to manipulate the incidence to garner international support and sympathy have thus come to naught and clumsy diplomacy has brought it a certain loss of face. As a result, Bhutan since 2003 has turned its back to the whole verification process and has been resisting every effort by Nepal to bring it to the negotiation table. Excerpts only -ed.
Article full of half-lies followed by complete fiction
Like every article coming from Nepal on the so-called "Bhutanese refugee" issue, yours is full of half-lies followed by complete fiction.
These fellows are in Nepal because that's where they belonged in the first place- 90% of them. As for the starry freaks like Kinley and T Pinjoree, they are fugitives from the law. They are crooks and thugs and thus feel at home in Nepal...You can keep them because they don't want to come to Bhutan to face the consequences of their own actions.
If you do some simple research, you'll understand why Bhutan's population figures were quoted at 1 million when it first joined the UN.
As for your other allegations, they don’t deserve any response because like your paper, they are full of third rate work - lies, lies and damn lies and not even well told.
From: Thupten Samdu