If there is any human zoo to be visited, it is Bhutan!
By Thinlev Penjore
If there is any human zoo to be visited, it is Bhutan where people live a dictated and a docile life under the illusive policy of driglam namzha — the so called etiquette of life. Only limited information is available on the sufferings of the people.
With no place to go for protection and none to whom the people could approach for justice, the victims of atrocities, (the multi-diversity of the population) continue living suffocated life for generations. Lhotshampa community is one of the large sections of the Nepali speaking people who could make to Nepal to express their sufferings. The scale of silent suffering is immeasurable. It is spread over the length and breadth of the country and unreported for fear of intimidation due to absence of right to information out-let and freedom of speech. A few from non-Nepali speaking section followed 1990’s trail at the later part of 90’s and escaped the claws of atrocious regime. Their far and close relatives living inside the country have been, if not more, equally facing the discriminatory policies of the regime.
It is in this context pertinent to apprise here that ethnic cleansing is not true in entirety as the policy has not spared all races and ethnicities except the ruling groups for generations.
Branding its citizens as Terrorists:
Against our expectations for a positive approach, Bhutan, in order to completely shy away from the refugee imbroglio has described refugee camps, “the terrorist breeding camps” forgetting its state act of terrorism that rendered large section of its people homeless and discriminated. Even the cabinet is not well aware of the incident. The King is therefore, solely responsible for refugee making and leaving a declining legacy for the new regime.
The process of pseudo democracy with international campaign chanting Per Capita Income of US $710 is bogus and ridiculous. There are underprivileged children in rags with families living under banana-leaf-roofed houses with hardly a meal in a day.
Unemployment of tens of thousands of youths is another serious problem being faced by Bhutan at the present moment while provisions for further education are limited to ruling circle. The government maintaining its position for a ‘Compact and Efficient Government”, and creating unending redundancy of employees at every frequent interval are another social problem created by the policy. No adequate measures are being taken to promote vibrant entrepreneurial prospects. The existing little over 44,000 trade licenses are either family run or managed by the royal families and the elite groups.
The ongoing process of pseudo democracy only goes to eyewash world community to help strengthen royal absolutism that administers the country not as a nation but merely as a royal estate.
Recent developments taking place in Bhutan beginning with:
• The unveiling of so called ‘Draft Constitution’,
• The April 21, 2007 mock election,
• King’s premature abdication at 52 instead of 65 as prescribed in the draft constitution
• Prescribing qualification criterion for MPs All without considering:
· general amnesty to all the dissidents;
· lifting of all the discriminatory policies;
· release of political prisoners unconditionally
· recognition of political parties in exile;
· nullification of resettlement in the refugee lands;
· repatriation of genuine Bhutanese in dignity and in honor to their original homesteads;
· demilitarization of the affected regions;
· Confirms to strengthening absolutism as incorporated in the so called draft Constitution vide Article 2, Clause 16 and 26.
The entire process of so called democratization has no sincerity as Bhutan has shown constitutional crisis at the outset of the so called process of democracy. It is here that we appeal international community and the world democracy to give justice to the situation.
There need no elaboration and repetition on making of Bhutanese refugees. Media friends both at regional and international have, been keeping the issue updated. The international communities like the HRW, UNHCR, Amnesty International, scholars and academicians from various fields of institutions have been instrumental in keeping Bhutanese issue alive.
Any outsiders visiting Bhutan are handled with utmost care to ensure that they are properly guided to keep away from exploring innocent people and knowing the reality of peoples’ life. The JVT members from Nepal and any diplomats who visited Bhutan could confirm the quality of regime’s protocol arrangements.
Impact of Protraction:
Looking at the present situation of Bhutan, we turn to look at India for their support as world’s leading democracy. It is our belief that a slight move by Delhi will make the difference in helping to bring about an amicable solution to the refugee imbroglio.
As laments of the refugee community has been staggering, the aspirations of the suffering refugees have reached a directionless situation.
Bhutan on the other hand goes to create another pack of refugees as it has already excluded over 80,000 of its people from the voters list. This shows that Bhutan is succeeding in its advantageous move to undertake real ethnic cleansing.
Nepal-Bhutan bilateral process entered into deadlock in December 22, 2003 and since been protracted. It is unfortunate that Nepal and its partner even failed to address any official conclusion to the stalemate.
Amidst the situation, proposal for third country resettlement appeared. It is the right of every person to choose their destination. We look at it as temporary measure to relieve the protracted refugees look forward to support for their safe resettlement in any chosen country.
It is however unclear about the fate of those who remain behind looking towards repatriation as their only option. Neither Bhutan is prepared to take them back nor has anybody from other countries come forward to help bring Bhutan to the negotiating table.
It is in this context we feel that durable solution of the refugee crisis should take place with all the three options spontaneously. And to achieve this we need to work cohesively.
Looking towards India:
We think that India has major role to play in resolving Bhutanese political crisis not only as a close neighbor but also as world’s leading multiparty democracy. Besides, India has played major role in the establishment of social and welfare development institutions in Bhutan.
We look forward to this forum to reach to a decisive conclusion that could help take up the issue on priority basis and help addressing effectively rather than leaving it to face a natural death. If timely measures are not taken to address the issue, it could turn out to be costlier to the region in the coming future.
Therefore, through this forum, we reiterate Nepal and urge this forum as well to help support us in further convincing Nepal to form an effective Task Force that could be able to take up refugee issue consistently and effectively.
Before I conclude, I must share with you that, looking at Bhutan’s attitude towards the problem, we have decided to march into Bhutan beginning May 28, 2007 in keeping with Article 13 (2) of the UDHR, which gives people the right to “… leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”. In this context, we have already appealed Government of India to consider allowing access across Indian border soil. In the changed context of Indo-Bhutan Friendship treaty, we look forward to India to allow us to march peacefully into Bhutan so that every Bhutanese refugee could also participate in exercising their voting rights in the democracy of Bhutan.
(Mr. Penjore is the President of the DNC-Druk National Congress & Vice Chairman of BMSC- Bhutanese Movement Steering Committee; His remarks made at an IFA seminar on Bhutanese Refugee problems, May 21, 2007 in Kathmandu-ed.)