My Beloved Village (Karma Bhumi) Surey

Surey is the village where I grew. It was open for inhabitation in early AD 1910-20s. Before that, this was a deep forest or pasture “Chramdo “use by nomads. Later, this land was a given by king Jigme Dorjee to Lami Gemba Khenche Rimpochee’s (meaning of Khence Rimpoche - reincarnated monk) mother for her cattle grazing. She was his sister. Again, the same land was reallotted for new settlement by the same government and an internal boundary was fixed in between Tongsa, Semgang and Sarbhang districts.

I always felt and believed this village to be my birth place because I did everything here since I was one and half year old after I was brought from Maogaun - my actual birthplace. As I mentioned in my previous article, there was no central administration in Bhutan until 1907 and the country was rifted in several parts; sometime under the name of Penlopes (provincial chief), and sometimes they called under Dzongpons (fort’s chiefs). Prior to Wangchuks’ kingship in Bhutan, Paro, Tongsa and Dagana provinces were ruled by Penlopes and rest of the Bhutan was controlled by Dzongs or Dzongpon (forts or fort’s head). Among these chief lords, Paro Penlope began to welcome Nepali Bhutanese around in 1870s (in addition to Sabdung Nawang Namgyal and third Druk Deshi Minjure Tenpa’s period of Nepali induction for carpenters masonry and craft men, agriculturist and gold smith and silver smith) by appointing Mr. Garjaman Gurung as his feudal vassal and subsequently, the area came to be known as GarjaMan State . Mr. Gurung was allowed to establish Nepali villages (Blocks) and was given permission to clear felling of Jungles in “Chamurchi” (Samchi and Sipsu) areas for multiple uses such as timber business, inhabitations and agriculture establishment. In lieu of those lands, Poenlop levied cash revenue from him through settled Lhostampa, inhabitants of southern border. Mr Gurung collected huge amount of taxes according to plots sizes as I mentioned in my previous article. The Inhabitants under this feudal State made RAIYATS or land tenants following the regional practice of South Asia. This system was also adopted by Wagchuk and Dorjee when they opened other parts of Bhutan for resettlement to Bhutanese Nepali. The “Raiyat" or tenant system was continued till December 1959, until ever first citizenship act was promulgated and declared serfdom was abolished form Bhutan in 1965. Previous land and tax details recordkeeping system was called Dhada system and annual khajana (revenue) were replaced by SATRAM system (Dzongkha termed) under the command of the third king’s representative in the ministry of Finance, Ashi Sonam Chhoden. Likewise, Dhuri khajana (plot taxation) system was replaced by acre system and lands were categorized as wet, dry and losey field (wastage field), Orchard and kharka (grass land). Subsequently, when chain survey was done since 1972-81, houses taxes made separate from the land according to their sizes and types, only in 1980-81 .

Let us move to narrate again from 1972 towards to Paro Dagana and Tongsha Penlope period. These chieftains were the rivals for power, supremacy and used to fight several wars. By virtue, the Tongsa penlope, British knight became stronger than all. He was successful to influence Ugen Dorjees (the Bhutan Agent who also had given Raja(king) title through British empire under Ugen wangchuk) to mobilize British’s support to end the rivalry with Paro, and to establish his hereditary kingship in Bhutan. Although, the fear of rivalry between them remained until Namgyal wangchuk’s (half-brother of third king) Penlope ship and until the Daga Penlopes left to fight for their clam. The existing Paro Penlope, his highness Namgyal wangchuk ( who was also a Paro poenlope ) made trade, industry and forest minister under king Jigme Dorjee wangchuk’s government but internal enmity was ended only when the prince represented the third king in the United Nation Organization, UNO in 1971 for Bhutan’s membership. By presenting as representative of his half-brother, third king Jigme Dorjee Wangchuk . Prince Wangchuk did not marry officially. May be, there might be a hidden understanding or strategy to not claim again separate Paro province and Penlope ship by his progenies.

Be as it may, let us go back again in the context of Surey wherein Mr Ugen Dorjee carried out his responsibility and started to spread Nepali settlement from Dorokha, Sipsu, Samchi (Samste), Chegmari, Phunsoling, Kalikhola, Changkha, Daga Pela, Chirang, Lamidara (Minte gang), Sarbhang (Sarpang), Hatisar (Gaylegphu), Kana Makura, Pathshala (Dumsung), Daifam (Jumotsangkha), Hastinapur (Langchephu), Samrang, Bhangtar and Samdrup Dzonker sub division (Dungkag ). These places were known as southern Bhutan (Lhostam) and inhabitants were called Lhostampa. Lho means south, Stam means border and Pa means dwellers or southern border protectors.

If we return to those days and imagine our ancestress’ situations in their respective places all were equal to Surey. They were compelled to deal with same systems and situations everywhere in Bhutan. Government’s so called rules and regulations were under feudalism and were guided by pure cruelty.

My Karma Bhumi (working place) Surey was a remote place. To reach here for fast walkers from Sarbhang or Darechhu via Bhur, Dovan, Maugang, Gong (no other routes were connected at that time) it used to take at least 3-5 days . Everyone had to travel through foot paths and forest staying at night under caves and under the sheds of trees. Such routes were constructed or maintained by settlers under Dorjees and Wangchuks and were linked one block to another (Vilage head quarter ). The tracks were used to carry materials for construction materials of palace or Dzongs or any other purposes and requirements. Under these routes, for example, Sarbhang and Surey, there were five furious rivers to cross several times to get connected again to the path because on the ways there were several rocks which were impossible to move further. No temporary bridges were available during summer - May to December because of heavy floods and incessant rain in the areas. Due to this, in many places mule/horses track were flooded out and previous connection were washed away as a result of which men had to scroll/slid on the slopes many times during traveling on these paths. On the other hand, short cut from Surey to Hatisar was not joined due to lack of sizable workers for the connecting task. In fact, a short cut way became extremely urgent so as to make it reachable to Tonsha Palace with a border area because to go to market place or to catch trains and buses, there were no other alternatives. So, new settlers of surey became instrumental to fulfill this shortfall and made a foot path via Chungsing, Rani Camp, Deorali Dada, Jaisi Dada, Todke, Katle kinar and Char Pate, Chisapani and Mao khola to link Hatisar and Tongsa. Nevertheless, more shorter or easy path could not be made because in between Hatishar (Gaylegphu) and Surey there were two huge vertical rock ranges with big heights and long breathes which used to called Jhyate Bheer and Katle Bheer. Former stared to call JAYANTI ROCK when Indian border construction force constructed the motor able road. Jhyate alone is about 6000 feet of height and about 3 km breathed and Katle contains lose rock (Gargare Bhir) and hard rock. These rocks came to be known as Mica and Katle rocks later. Still, in case of any incident or in the absence of connection at Mica bridge and Jayanti it is still impossible to cross the gap between Gayleg phung Tongsa High way even today. Similarly, Dagana and Dagapela, Phunsholing and Gedu, Gedu and Chhuka, Tala and Pashakha Samdrup Dzonkher and Tashi gang, Tongsha and Bumthang, Monger and Punakha, Thimpu and Paro, Chhunjum and Haa were facing same condition as Surey and Hatisar faced. These steep rocks swallowed thousands of our ancestors during their construction whether they were track road or motor able roads building as written by Dr Govinda Raj Bhttarai in his book “Munglan”.

Let us move from Hatisar to Kokrajahar, Bongai Goun or Dhup Gari - areas were marketing of most essential commodities, such as kerosene oil, match box and salt was possible because they were not available in Bhutanese soil then. These Indian towns were far away from and Surey and Bhutan border. Pedestrians were required to crossthrough deep and furious Jungles in between from Hati Sar to Indian town. Also, the entire area was covered by lions, bears, Pythons, King Cobra and other animals along with malaria and jaundice spreading insects. There were no place to stay at night other than take shelter under tree’s sheds or stranger houses of some Indian Nepalese, Rajbamsies or Boros ( Indian local communities ) and the path would take another 2-3 days to reach above mention Indian towns for marketing to Bhutanese or dwellers of Surey Vilage .