Trickledown: Non Nepali Bhutanese in Surey and Entire Border Situation of Bhutan

As discussed in my previous articles, set up of Bhutan is/was based on the provincial basis along with the vulnerable border condition. Accordingly, inhabitation of different ethnic group is/was on the basis of ethnic wise even after the loss of old southern Bhutan in the war of 1864 AD with British India. Similarly, northern and two districts of central Bhutan are/were dominated by Gnalung. Eastern Bhutan is/was inhabited by Stangla or Sarchchop and Semgang District is/was the dwelling place of Kheng and Mon of Bhutan. The entire southern Bhutan from East Dhansiri to west Jaldhakka was a pure house of Nepali Bhutanese which now is under ethnic cleansing against predominant Bhutanese of Nepali origin.


In the past, it was a huge challenge to keep the large southern border intact because British or free Indian leader were giving greater impetus to tea plantation on an adjacent Indian side. However, our ancestors took this challenge as their prime duty and protected the eternal border by settling themselves on those areas. Likewise, the border in north was also not fixed scientifically. Unfortunately it is truncated during King Jigme Synge’s reign. Regarding this dispute, residents of Bhutan used to say those pieces of land were their grazing lands and the people of other side (Tibet) used to say those areas belonged to them. In addition, politics of Bhutan was never stable as being said because century’s old civil war was out of the hand of Druk Desis (the then regent of Shabdrung). Paro and Tongsa Penlopes used to remain on fray for total control. Therefore, Paro Penlope, indulged to incline towards China (Tibet ). Similarly, Wangchuks Kings, especially the first King Ugen Wangchuk chose to keep him under Dilhi Darbar after Sinchula Punakha and 1949 treaties or even today. Under the treaties, the Kings have the power to administer in the internal matter but matters related to foreign affair was under the control of external ministry of India according to above Indo- Bhutan treaties. These treaties were made by Druk Desi, especially by Jigme Namgyal the great father of Wangchuks’ Kings. Under agreements, the sovereignty of Bhutan was/is not purely protected and stability in the politics in Bhutan is a day dream, even today. All the accords made between Bhutan and India, has given upper hand and indirect control of India even after the treaties of 1949 (that was made with free India). In 2007, Bhutan has become successful to hide the following words, such as “ Bhutan’s foreign policy is guided by India ” but spirit of treaty has not been changed in any circumstances. As a result before to ascend on the throne, King Jigme Kheshar Namgyal Wangchuk visited Delhi twice and got blessings from Primeminister Manmohan Singh, President Sreematee Pratibha Patil and Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Likewise, the ever first constitution of Bhutan was offered to “Delhi Darwar” (palace at Delhi ) for its consent before it got promulgated in Bhutan.


One need to remember, Bhutan-India treaties are the byproduct of 1864 war, a result of money hungriness in Bhutan and the cost of absolute Kingships in the country. They were made after bad treatment with the British envoy, Mr. Else Eden by the Jigme Namgyal (father of the Ugen Wangchuk) at Punakha by smearing black clay and mud on the face of envoy instead of using diplomatic behaviors.

To understand all of these, one has to visit mentally prior to 1960. This period may help to know the main characters, personnel concerned and their influence in the administration. Also, it adds knowledge to understand the country’s source of revenue generation and its ready manpower which were the major subjects of worries. Likewise, one needs to envisage, how Bhutan was hungry for hard worKing and tax earning men power (be it skilled or unskilled). The extent of hunger was such that the Desis and King’s government had no cash back up other than the cash collection from southern Bhutan and fifty thousand (latter five lakhs) “lease hold” money from British administration in lieu of the Sinchula treaty and so on. Regarding revenue generation or tax payment, northern Bhutan, eastern and the central used to pay only in kinds and labor, such as - red rice, dry meat, red chili and butter and cheese; wage less labors to Jongpons, Penlops and Kings. The hot cash tax payer were only Bhutanese of Nepali who were inhabited in southern Bhutan and had their own respective block or district in which there was a distinguished four corner land boundary, in the name of the ‘Dhuri ko char killa’. Like Dhuri, my Karma Bhumi, Surey also had a boundary from north to west - Tama Dara, Jhandi Dada, Chapteling Khola, Thotne khola, Gope Dada and Tato Pani shir (source); from east to south - Rong Khola sheer, Neel Pokhari, Katle khola sheer, Ghonte Tar and from south to west - Char Pate (Sher Camp ), Tato Pani (hot spring or Chha chhu). The block was extended in 1969-70 by merging the connecting similar other blocks. They were, SamKhara, Galechu and Gong along with their boundaries with Tongsa, Semgang district and Sarbhang sub division.

Regarding internal boundary, one need to know that was fixed by Raja Sonam Tobge Dorjee and Primeminister Jigme Palden Dorjee with the consent of King Ugen Wangchuk, Jigme Wangchuk and Jigme Dorjee WangChuk after Wangchuks’ takeover of Bhutan. Every blocks and district (Dzonkhag ) had its own border. Trespassers were treated crime and permanent settlement in either side or group was purely restricted, until 1971-72. Nepalese of Bhutan got various nicknames such as ‘Jyagar jyande’ (Indian looKing) along with the name as Nepalee, Gorkha, Pahare, southern border protector by national assembly and “Gnolop” (Rival) after agitation. Also, Gnalung used to be called Bhote (Tibetan looking). So, King Jigme Synge Wagchuk gave new appositive to Nepalese Bhutanese and started to address “ lhostampa” (people living in southern border). The day to declare this new appositive was the first day of ascending the throne, 17 December. Declaring place was Gaylegphung football ground where almost all government representatives from entire ministries and departments, the southern population and its representatives were present to celebrate “National day” the first King ascending day in Bhutan.

Be as it may, Surey had no school other than one Sanskrit Pathsala (Vedic school) run jointly by Saila Pandit (Mitra Nanda Rizal), and the active villagers. In this Pathsala, Bahun (Brahman) used to study the Vedas, Ammarkosh (dictionary of Sanskrit), Vyakarana (grammar) “Jyotish” or “Hora Chakra” (Astrology related subjects ) Ganit (math) and karma kanda (subject related to worship god). As a result, Tulashi Ram Bhandari, Mr Sana Pandit, (Pathshale), Tikaram Bhatarai, Gauri Shankar Nepal and Narapati Nepal, Santi Ram Dahal, Devanayak Bhandari and Hari Bhandari, Vashudev Dahal became the Pandit of this Pathsala’s product. Gori lal khatiwada and Narapati Adhikari became the famous “Ved Pathi”. They were able to memorize “Sukla yajur Veda” (one of the Veda among the four) by heart. Mr. Nara Nath Bhandari, Khanal Kancha and Gana Pati Pyakurel were the Jyotishi (astrologer of Surey Vedic path sala).


Specially, Chetriya used to study “Chandi or Durga Saptasati”, strength and energy related subjects with other following subjects - Vyakarana, Amarkosh, Bhagawat Gita, Nyaya Sastra, Nabya Sastra, Tarka Sanggraha, Chanakya Neeti, Hitopadesh, Panchtantra, Sahitya, Visnu Sahasra Nam, Jyotish and Ganit, Sreemad Bhagawat. Except the Vedas, all of them were available to all caste such as women, Vaishya and Sudra too. In this context, there is a big misconception and wrong propaganda against Brahman. It used to say, “other than Brahman no one is allowed to study above subjects”. This publicity was/is complete chauvinism.


For modern education, with the initiative of villagers, one private school was opened in early 1950. It was run by a teacher who was known Sunuwar Sir. He was from Khorsane, Chirang village and was able to teach basic alphabets and mathematic (plus minus, multiplication and simple division). First batch of this school’s students were Kalu Gurung, Kharilal Gurung, Thakur Prasad Luyitel, Tarabir Mangar, Ravilal Mangar, Jasbahadur Gurung, Bisnulal Phuyel etc. From the Upadhaya community, I was the first student and was admitted in 1957.

In early 1958-59, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Primeminister of India and Indira Gandhi visited Bhutan to assess the border tension between china which used to carry under current into Indian border and its security after Dalai Lama’s asylum in India. Along with border hotness, their next aim of visit to Bhutan was to strengthen direct relation and contact with the King and external or defense ministry of India as well as to open a military post, geological survey of India’s offices in Bhutan. Also, station of border road construction force (It got name DANTAK in Bhutan) of India in Bhutan was a prime concern of their visit. Thereafter, they moved forward for bilateral discussion. Under this, they were successful to make the King agree to get the Indian military force to ply in Bhutan and set up a defense post at Haa. The force got its name as ‘Imtrat’ (Indian Military Training Team ) station. Another great achievement of this visit was to open Geological survey of India’s office everywhere in Bhutan and an authority to operate its activities. Consequently, as a give and take basis Bhutan got first five year plan fund from India.


After receiving funding for five year plan, preliminary schools started to open with modern subjects even in Surey. This school started to teach modern subjects such as English and science. The school got teachers form government. It first head master was Mr Surya Bahadur Silwal, a matriculated youth appointed from Kalimpong by Primeminister’s office. Early products of this school were Jas Bahadur Gurung who became compounder and Bisnulal Phuyel vaccinator in the government dispensary, at Surey . Mr Acyut Bhandari was the first bachelor degree holder from Australia and Dick Pakwal Chetree became the first civil aviation pilot and Chhabilal Timsina got MBBS and Bhawat Bhandari became dental surgeon. Om Kafle became engineer, Parsuma Sharma Luitel became agriculture export and Radha Adhikari holds LLM degree. Also, Mr Kharilal Gurung and Virkha Bahadur Sarki became the Blok Mandal of Surey and I became National Assembly Member (Member of Parliament) of Gaylegphung constituency from Surey.


Within 2 year of first five year plan, in 1964, Surey was connected by motorable road with border, Hatisar. The distance between Surey and Hatisar is 33 km. But, this road remained without vehicles pother than the vehicles of Dantak until 1970-72. Thereafter Surey developed rapidly. Ethnic Nepali dwellers in Surey started to grow surplus of food grain which used to export to neighboring district - SemGang, Tongsha and Bumthang. Also, they began to plant cardamom by importing siblings from Sikkim and Ilam, Nepal. In addition to this, Nepali of Bhutan cultivated, orange orchard in hill’s river banks and riverside. They grew betelnut or arecanut in plain areas respectively. These horticulture products became the main source of importing hard currency. It helped to establish royal monitory authority of Bhutan and became the source of making Bhutanese currency first time in the history of Bhutan. Such currency was one, five, ten, twenty and hundred Gnultrume (equal to rupee of India) in paper along with one, five, ten, twentyfive, fifty chetrums (Paise) in metal. Paper currencies had the third King Jigme Dorjee Wngchuk’s imprint and the coins got imprinted with “Astachinha” (the eight sign of Bhutan), in 1968-72. Till 1972, in Surey or in southern Bhutan (except in Chirang Dara 60 house and in Tendu 10-15 house) there was no trespassing of any non-Nepalese Bhutanese for permanent residence.


For the first time in 1973, Mr Tektu Drukpa and Mr Gnalung Drukpa (both were former Pazap or royal body guard) came to settle in the land. Immediately after them, second queen Yanky and Gup Khilla made their palace at Surey . Khila’s sister, Bakhuma Dukpa, Thinley Namgy (third King’s maternal uncle), Khinche Rimpoche (King’s cousin), Nidup Dukpa (ex-Jongpone), Karma Gele (prince Namgyal wangchuk’s friends), Sonam Wangdi (captain and costume officer), Kado (captain royal body guard), Gup Sonam (King Jigme Synge’s right hand), beat officer Stiring Wangdi (Gup Somam’s trusted friend) started to dwell in Surey by constructing Habelis (big houses). They also, received large virgin free land from government and were able to grow all types of crops along with the cardamom and orange including big chunk of grass land.

Now, under ethnic cleansing, the old name of Surey has got assassinated and is now known as “JigmeChholing“. Not only the name of the Block but the land registered in the name of Laxi Narayan Mandir (temple )and Samskrit Pathshala which used to be situated and attached with Gaylegphung - Tongsha highway of 34 kilometers has been looted by the King’s Agents. It has been unilaterally owned by a Lakhang (Buddhist monastery) in the style of Ram Janma Bhumi and Babari mosque of Ayodhya, India. Existing Pathshala and Laxinarayan Mandir has been shifted to Khadal Dada by bribing Pt. Tulasiram Bhandari who later became stooges in Surey of King Jigme Synge Wangchuk.

The Khadal Dara has another historical importance other than Sanskrit Pathshala and Laxinarayan Mandir. It is a Samadhi place (profound meditation and last breathing place) of Jagad Guru 1008 Yogiraj Kamala Nayana Acharya of Mai Dhar, Laxinarayan Mandir in Jhapa Nepal. The Aacharya had hundreds of thousands of devotees across in Bhutan, Assam in India, America, Canada, Australia, and Nepal.


Within Surey, my wife Garima Adhikari had around ten acres of land, cardamom orchard, orange orchard and two double storied farm houses which were the birth place of almost all of my offsprings. Both the houses were dismantled by administration and entire properties in Surey and in Gaylegphung were confiscated.


The King’s government continued to do the same heinous works across the southern Bhutan to evict the innocent Bhutanese Nepali until they agreed to leave their mother land. Just from Surey alone, around 350 houses (approximately one family hold around 7 members in one household) were evicted and citizenships confiscated without any reason or compensation under the martial laws. These Bhutanese took asylum in Nepal. Not only from Surey, around 100 thousand Bhutanese were evicted in 1992-93 from the entire Southern Bhutan. Bhutanese refugee constitutes around 19% of country’s population. Now, they have resettled in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, European countries, India, Nepal and in America and are waiting for real democracy and honor of human rights in the country. On the other hand, Surey has been made like Drukpagoun (Gnalung dwelling place) and Nepalese are forced to wear Go and Kira by abandoning their own dress, culture and costumes.