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Government Atrocities & Flight of Bhutanese people

The government reacted with more force after the peaceful protest demonstrations. A fresh wave of crackdowns was perpetrated by the government. All people who participated in the peaceful demonstrations were immediately reprimanded, civil servants were terminated without any payment of pension benefits and other benefits and most of the participants were imprisoned.

Arbitrary arrest, degrading treatment, loot, plunder, rape of innocent women and burning down of their houses had become the order of the day. The security forces indiscriminately arres ted, tortured and imprisoned innocent villagers. Entire villages were razed to the ground by the government security forces. Many were killed in police custody under torture. The government of Bhutan had confiscated citizenship and property documents and also forced many of the Nepali-speaking Lhotshampas to sign papers renouncing Bhutanese citizenship.

Further, all schools, hospitals, postal and telecommunications services were closed to the southern Bhutanese as a form of mass punishment for having participated in the demonstrations. All seventy six schools in southern Bhutan were closed. The school buildings were converted into army barracks and detention centres. Health and medical services were withdrawn from southern Bhutan. Trade licences of southern Bhutanese were withdrawn forcing most of the shops to be closed. Essential commodities such as salt and cooking oil were strictly controlled. There existed a total freeze on their movement in southern districts, at one time. The schools are still remain closed in southern Bhutan.

The entire southern belt of Bhutan was declared as a 'Disturbed' area and undeclared martial law was imposed. The government officially promulgated that no development activities shall be undertaken in southern Bhutan and the resources allocated for southern Bhutan were diverted to northern Bhutan and to the upkeep of the security forces and the training of 'militia', the conscripted volunteers from the east and northern Bhutan.

The plight of Lhotshampa women in southern Bhutan was most inhuman, immediately after the peaceful rallies. Most of the male members had fled the country for fear of persecution by the government security forces. The villages in the southern Bhutan were left only with women and children. Most female members in the village were subjected to rape and some were tortured to death in custody. More than 60 % of the victims of violence confirmed rape. Women face special problems as survivors of rape and torture. For Hindu women of southern Bhutan, who are raped, trauma could be compounded with great shame and stigmatisation. Some women were rejected by husbands and families. Many had to deal with pregnancies and children resulting from rapes. As a result of humiliation, rape and torture, many suffer from psychological disturbances, such as night mares, sleeplessness, flash backs, depressions and anxiety. Many children are orphans and some had witnessed the murder, torture and rape of their parents.

Under such circumstances the Lhotshampas had no option but to flee the country and take asylum in neighbouring India and Nepal. They were forced to leave the country to evade mass arrests and torture in the police custody. Many families had to leave Bhutan to save the honour of their women folks from the brutality of security forces.

Continued: Please click on NOC/PCC/SCC  for continuity of the events leading to exodus of Lhotshampas


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