Is Bhutan’s relief team in Nepal’s earth quake of April 2015 related to the refugee crises?

Being a son of Bhutanese soil, this time round, I felt grateful with the government of Bhutan for taking initiative to send rescue team to salvage the victims of devastated earthquake of 25 April 2015. I felt as if Bhutan is not governed by rulers having inhuman heart as they had done in the past regarding Bhutanese refugee repatriation and Bhutanese Nepalis settlement in Bhutan. Especially, the refugee crises are a creation of king Jigme singe Wangchuk and his posture towards it violated all norms of humanity of civilized government in 21 century.

Accordingly, rescue team from Bhutan has treated around some thousands of victims in Trisuli, Nepal. Beside the team, a cash aid of $ 1 million also was sent with Tshering Tobge (King’S prime minister) showing solidarity in times of calamity in the Himalayan region. The amount was handed over to the prime minister of Nepal and was deposited in his Relief fund which required more than100 billion rupees to rehabilitate all damages, victims’ family -- who lost their lives and partial damage to properties. Obviously, victims will get benefits whether it would be used in immediate relief operation or in rehabilitation of the quake victims-- both being equally important. But this sudden change in Bhutanese king’s attitude toward Nepal silently raises some questions in the diplomatic history of Bhutan and Nepal especially considering the stalemate in the 2 decade long Bhutanese refugee crises, an outcome of the silent ethnic cleansing and forceful eviction of Southern Bhutanese of Nepali origin due to the implementation of martial law in 1988-1998.

The Bhutanese refugees were not permitted to repatriate despite all being genuine citizen of Bhutan. Their pre-owned properties were distributed to King Jigme Singe’s men by the king himself largely at Gelephu where from 36% of total refugees. Bhutan’s crises of 1988-1998 was not natural but created by king Jigme singe Wangchuk deliberately with an intention of making country for Drukpa residence only. In his move, the king succeeded somehow as the long process of bilateral negotiation allowed fatigue to set in with the passage of more than two decades of stalemate to understand the real intention of monarch. The King could achieve this despite being closely monitored by international community who were helping from track 1 and track 2 levels by America, Canada, European Union, UNO and its organs constantly.

Ignoring all international observations, Bhutan government blatantly violated the joint agreements, at the end of joint verification, furnished between two Nations and displayed its ugly face by declaring a so-called law made by the king to implement upon those Bhutanese who would voluntarily repatriate. As per the law, the returnees themselves are responsible to reach Bhutan without any international monitoring and help. After reaching there, they should accept to remain in probation camps established by government for uncertain period in unknown places where government feels fittest. They (returnees) were only allowed to earn (at least by one member from the family) from the place were one need to go for manual work, no matter whether he/ she is skilled or unskilled. May be, work place would be road construction sites, hydro power station or cement factories either in “Naglam”, “Penden” or elsewhere. They could apply for citizenship certificate after spending minimum 15 years and 20 years in such camps. Even after obeying all of the conditions above, it is uncertain if the concerned would regain his citizenship as it was prior to 1985. It would depend on the government‘s discretion and the chances of being denied even after spending such a long period in Bhutan existed. Even after qualifying all of the conditions, the confiscated properties would not be returned to the claimants, while the government is free to decide the compensation and new residence. In addition to this, education need to returnee’s children and their medical facilities are not guaranteed until one would get citizenship as the law of Bhutan is prohibitory to provide education and health services to aliens.

The existing refugee law of Bhutanese towards returnees or those seeking shelter is extremely barbaric. In both cases, this law does not allow UNHCR for monitoring the refugees’ humanitarian situation and their where about as was denied to Tibetan refuges who were taken shelter in Bhutan in 1950s. We can take their example who when the Chinese communists captured their country by declaring policy of liberation of Tibet. At that time, (in 1950s), the people’s liberation army of china killed more than 87 thousands innocent men , women , nun, monks and general laymen and were aiming to capture His holiness the Dalai lama (spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet) . As result, he fled with 13000 followers together followed by more than 100 thousand common Tibetans from all over Tibet. They entered into India via the routes in Nepal, Arunachala Pradesh and Bhutan. Amongst them, around 4000 had stayed in Bhutan with their blood relatives, as members of the Bhutanese government had also migrated to this place prior in earlier times. In the beginning, they were dear to the government-- especially to the king; the government allowed them to open commercial business and arranged accommodation to stay in any towns or villages they chose. Accordingly, they settled in Thimphu, Paro, Tongsa, and Phunsoling and opened different commercial enterprises to trade goods from India. Those who were less skilled earned their living by transporting goods through caravan of mules from Indian market to Bhutanese towns in remote places like Bumthang and Tongsha. They were allowed to move as contemporary Bhutanese throughout Bhutan.

Unfortunately, 2nd June 1974 was a black day for these Tibetan refugees in Bhutan. They were doubted for helping in conspiracy to Ashi yanki (the Third King’s consort whose son also was from Jigme Dorjee Wangchuk) against king Jing Jigme Singe Wangchuk’s coronation. They became the target of king’s wrath despite the general Tibetans being innocent. Many prominent officers related to Azi yanki were put in jail and tortured cruelly. Some business houses of Tibetan refugees in Thimpu were burnt down and many common Tibetans elsewhere were put under strictures. They lived like prisoners in open jail and were not allowed to meet even their relative residing in other town of Bhutan as well as in India without government permission. Thanks to Shreemati Indira Gandhi’s government who rescued around 3000 Tibetan from that pathetic situation and gave shelter in India again in late seventies. Awkwardly, whoever remained in Bhutan by choosing Bhutan’s option of granting citizenship they may not have been included in the voting list as thousands of eastern and southern Bhutanese were excluded in the list of 2013 general election, according to so called probation period.

Next to Tibetan, returnees of eastern Bhutan who fled in 1963 with 9th incarnation of Sabdung Nawang Namgyal are also suffering from the same provision. After waiting for several years, they are still living without having residency or appropriate documents that would allow them to live as genuine citizens till now.

Not only Tibetan And Sarchop ( eastern Bhutanese ) , In the past ethnic Nepali Bhutanese also were in the list of returnees in 1968-69 when third king Jigme Dorje Wanhchuk had issued a decree for reinstating their citizenships and properties which were seized during 1948-1968’s agitation . Accordingly, among a large majority of exiles, few Bhutanese returned from exile and were given 3 and 5 acres land according to their family sizes. But it could not last longer than 17 years when king jigme Singe Wangchuk Implemented the racist citizenship law of 1985, revoking previous laws of 1958. Again, these returnees were declared as non-Bhutanese and placed in f- 7, with allegation that they could not produce the land tax receipt of 1959 in their Individual name and hand by ignoring that the period of exile was late forties and the decree for repatriation was issued in late 1968 (around 20 yearlong absence in Bhutan ) by third king Jigme Dorjee Wangchuk. These former returnees, again became stateless in 1988-2009 when Bhutan’s 19% population was evicted by king Jigme singe Wangchuk.

Insomuch so, The Racist Government, under the guise of one nation one people and Diglam namja, targeted the common people not with Guns and machines but used subversive measures by filling in the home ministry and its subordinate branches from central level to village unit level by people promoting racial apartheid. More to this, District administrators and intelligence groups were instructed to watch the use of languages and dress policy strictly and take stringent action if not adhered to. Many people were arrested and fined even from remote village that did not wear Gho and kira or did not speak Dzonkha. Second, militia, Army, king’s men (such as Gup Sonam and Lakpa Dorjee) and detective ( Hemanta Gurung) were deputed in Nepal , India and Bhutan to watch the activities of potential supporter of Dasho Teka Nath Rizal who was in exile in Birtamode , Jhapa Nepal . Plain cloth person were deputed to patrol in the night. Among whom , some were instructed to dismantle and burn down the houses, fire in the air at night, followed by Gang rape of virgin girls in front of their family members after tying them down to the pillar. There after they took most male members to jail and tortured them until he agreed to leave Bhutan. Next to this, State sponsored property buyer were deputed to villages to grab the best property at minimal cost by spreading rumors of forceful eviction by the government in immediate future. Through these tactics, most of the prime properties along with orange, cardamom orchards or betel nut groves were snatched and registered in the name of the kith and kin of officials working in government office. More, District administrators in Southern Bhutan started to compose Video films of cruelly evicted person and branding them as voluntarily migrating to other country.

The diplomatic mission of Bhutan especially in Delhi, Geneva and New York were instructed to protect the government policies by fabricating as many lies as possible. They alleged genuine Bhutanese as economic migrant to those who were evicted by king’s government. On the other hand, king jigme Singe wangchuk began to project a magnanimous behavior by releasing prisoner (but by making sure to leave Bhutan through junior offices in jail itself). He announced that people could appeal to him in case anyone is being denied justice while closing down all avenues to grant audience. In case he met someone, the case was again forwarded to the same officer’s office who had taken stringent action to applicants. For Example, At Gaylegphug he addressed around 3000 people and assured them not live Bhutan but his officers and armed force raided their houses the same night to terrorize them to leave Bhutan before dawn.

Having committed such heinous crimes against the lhostampas in Bhutan, he met with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala of Nepal atSAARC summit’s sideline and requested him not to give shelter to Bhutanese of Nepalis origin in Nepal who was ousted by him. PM Koirala ignored his request because he was fully aware of the king’s intention and his ethnic cleansing program in Bhutan as well as the pathetic situation of 100 thousand Bhutanese refugees who were dying elsewhere on their way to Nepal. Prime Minister Koirala saved the lives of the evicted Bhutanese and immediately initiated quite diplomacy to repatriate Bhutanese. He succeeded to form a bilateral dialogue committee with Bhutan. But king Jigme Singe Wangchuk used this forum to prolong the crises through multiple rounds of dialogue and kept reiterating that his law does not have provisions to accept those people who had crossed BHUTAN’S border after signing “voluntarily migration form”. (This category was made by the king’s government and documented with video film of people with smiling face and signing so called voluntarily migrated form. (Actually it was achieved through threat of imprisonment and government sponsored terrorism). More than 90 % Bhutanese fall in this category. The delaying tactics helped king Jigme singe Wangchuk to keep the refugees in camps for more than a decade. Thereafter, he agreed for the verification of Bhutanese into four categories: Bhutanese, voluntarily migrated, terrorist and Non-Bhutanese. At last, he denied to accept three categories such as Voluntarily migrated, terrorist and non-Bhutanese despite conforming their place of origin being Bhutan under which (in these three categories ) more than 99.5 percent of refugees population belonged. As a result, Bhutanese in refugee camps in Nepal were forced to choose third country (overseas) settlement because king Jigmesinge wangchuk even disagreed to restore anything including citizenship to those who were picked as genuine Bhutanese by the Bhutan’s verification team, unilaterally. Consequently, Bhutanese in refugee camps were compelled to choose the resettlement option to Australia, Europe, Canada and America. In spite of resettlement to the western world, many refugees in the camp and elsewhere still want dignified repatriation. They are organizing activities to highlight their cause at various avenues, as a result Bhutan government is under tremendous moral (Though they don’t have intention of repatriation) pressure to at least address the issue to save face.

To orchestrate such a posture, King Jigme Singe’s pawn Tshering Tobge was instructed to measure the pulse of Nepali government and directed him to begin from Pashupati Nath temple in Kath Mandu on 29 may 2014. During his visit, he tried his best to be submissive and humble to Hindus by worshiping and putting Sindur tika and shreekhand Chandan ( red mark on his forehead with sandal pest bestowed from temple ) and garlands of sayapatri ( sayapatri’s mala ) garland with a shawl inscribed RamNam ( Ram’s Name ) to appear in media’s limelight. Before this, King Jigme khesar Namgyal Wangchuk with his queen Pema visited Bodh Gaya and Saranath in northern India. Followed by this, Mr Tobge visited vibrant Gujarat summit and gave a mixed speech in Hindi and English with a eulogy to Shree Narendra Modi’s Government. I guess this diplomacy was more orientated to show Hindu sympathizing image of Bhutanese government especially to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who belonged to Sangha Pariwar whose core policy is to unite all Hindus of the world as dreamt by Rastriya Swayam Sewak sangh (RSS) of India. RSS has been active since centuries in spear heading and spreading its followers not only in India but in Nepal and in most of the western nation too. Also, King Jigme Kheshar along with his queen Pema , Tshering Tobge and Nepali minister DN Dhungel visited the Hindu temple at capital Thimphu where a couple of Hindu were allowed to wear traditional Nepali worshiping dress in front of an audience of around 100 people. Therefore one can guess this diplomacy was more orientated to show Hindu sympathizing image superficially in changing environment of south Asia.

All these exercises orchestrated are approved from Bhutan’s real power center and now assigned to Tshering Tobge. It could be a prelude to prepare suitable ground for completely dismantling the refugee camp in Nepal according to the decision taken by Bhutan’s national assembly because these camps have been facilitating as international center for understanding, studying Bhutan’s silent ethnic cleansing and race based despotism under Wangchuk kings. Earlier this (dismantling) role was played by Jigme Y Thinle who has been in limbo after his mysterious defeat in 2013‘s so called general election.

In reality, the Bhutanese king does not want to repatriate even a small size of Bhutanese refugee. At same time he wants to project a Sanctified and trusts worthy image in light of reforms as done by King Jigme Singe Wangchuk in the beginning of his reign in 1972-1980.

Reshaping his policy to the new situation, the fourth king covertly may have ordered his son to speak to the media through minister DN Dhungel. Accordingly, he was saying that his government wants to heal the wound between Nepal and Bhutan that had arisen due to the refugee crises but lacked Proper Avenue. In such a dilemma, the devastating earth quake in Nepal became a useful event for Bhutan to send a rescue team to provide relief to the victims of 25 April in Nepal. Definitely, these gesture is good but Bhutan’ s past experience forcefully points to look at the flipside of such good gesture which always carries some ill intention to continue its despotic rule, promote racism and continue its ethnic cleansing policies.

With these facts and the unfolding story, related stakeholders should examine their steps very carefully otherwise king’s government of Bhutan is adept at playing such dramas. It would be pertinent to reflect on the words of Visnu Gupta’s (Chanakya) stanza, “ Durjana Priyavadi cha nai tad viswasha karam . Madhu tisthati jiwagre hridi hala halam visham”. Purpot of the stanza--- (Do not believe those ( durjana or inhuman ) who speak sweet sound by veiling his inhuman gesture alike a honey coated tongue containing a deadly poison hidden in it) .