the last bastion of hereditary absolute monarchy with a feudal order.
It is passing through a harrowing period of internal insecurity, political
instability and vulnerability created by current ruling elite. The eviction
of over one hundred thousand Nepali-speaking southern Bhutanese or the
Lhotshampas as they are officially called is a glaring example of the
current state of affairs in Bhutan. The government of Bhutan created another
security blunder by allowing the Indian militants form north-east India
in its territories.
image of Shangri-La as Bhutan was called has been shattered in these years
as it has been responsible for generating one of the highest per capita
refugees ( one sixth of the total population) in the world. More than
125,000 Bhutanese people, nearly a sixth of the kingdom's total population
of approximately 782,548 have been forced to leave or forcibly evicted
from the country by the Government. This has made Bhutan as one of the
highest per capita refugee generators in the world. As on March 2001,
approximately 98,886 Bhutanese refugees were living in seven refugee camps
in eastern Nepal managed by the UNHCR. Rest live scattered in other parts
of Nepal. About 25,000 Bhutanese refugees are living in Indian territories
with out any help.
a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic society is self-evident.
However, the government argues that "Pluralism is only practical
for a larger country where a diversity of customs, traditions and culture
enriches that nation. A small country like Bhutan cannot afford the luxury
of such diversity which may impede the growth of social harmony and unity
among its people". In the name of national integration, the government
implemented various racial and discriminatory policies aimed at forceful
homogenisation of multi-ethnic society. This 'Drukpanization' policy was
designed to annihilate the culture, religion and language of Lhotshampas,
Sharchhops and other minority ethnic, religious and linguistic groups.
Under this policy, all other ethnic and minority groups are required to
assimilate their social and cultural identity as distinct ethnic groups
with the society dominated by politically and economically dominant Ngalung
or Drukpa ethnic group. The state could not evolve a modus vivendi. To
the state 'Bhutanese national identity' meant the forceful assimilation
of cultures. Forced national integration, through eviction, through depriving
the Lhotshampas and dissidents of their nationality, or through brutal
intimidation and use of force have been the hallmark of state policy.
also political unity of population can be achieved. Examples abound as
USA, Switzerland and Great Britain where the Scottish and Wales enjoy
their cultural identity. The Government's policies of national integration
however, received stubborn resistance from the Lhotshampas, first, and
now by the Sharchhop and other minority groups.
has been used as a political tool by the state. Buddhism has been defined
to suit the interests of the ruling community. Bhutanese polity is increasingly
communalised by the ruling elite. Politics is practised on ethnic lines
that the politics became the monopoly of the single ethnic group, the
Ngalung. The rule of state becomes problematic when it seeks to represent
one ethnic group in a multi-ethnic society. There is a constant feeling
of insecurity among all the minorities against the government as a result
of frequent changes in the laws, rules and policies and their interpretation
by the Thimphu government to suit the regime largely affecting the Lhotshampas,
Sharchops and other minority groups.
of the global upsurge of the democratic movement and its import to Bhutan
sooner or later, the government crafted a clever strategy to prevent the
demand for democratic reforms. The dream of a new Drukpa Buddhist state
thus responds to a over-reaction against modernization and establishment
of human rights and democracy - a threat to the absolute monarchy and
feudal system. The 'ethnic cleansing' policy is a part of that strategy.
the democratic winds of change in the sub-continent such as emergence
of Bangladesh as an independent nation, dawn of democracy in Nepal, or
the ethnic conflicts having components of 'self- determination', 'autonomy',
separatism' and 'independence' in the neighbouring Indian states of Kashmir,
Punjab, North- east and Sri Lanka, Bhutanese political institutions had
no cause to worry as the Bhutanese people by and large remained politically
indifferent to these developments.
instead of taking lessons from these devastating events in the region
and pursuing a realistic policy of integrating different ethnic groups
in Bhutan, started working for the 'ethnic cleansing' of Lhotshampas.
This shows government's lack of vision and immaturity of its statecraft
and cultural intolerance. Its national integration policy was also fake.
One cannot construct a national integration policy by offering monetary
compensation. National integration is a gradual process.
refugees are the victims of racial policy of their government, who are
genuine citizens of Bhutan. Without taking back the Bhutanese refugees,
it will not be possible to achieve integration of the Bhutanese society.
They must be repatriated with dignity and honour. Until the Bhutanese
refugee problem is solved and human rights are guaranteed there can be
no peace in Bhutan. Given the current situation, the repatriation of refugees
seems not possible without effecting a change in existing laws. These
laws declare a citizen anti-national if one is found to be in contact
with any dissident against the government and are subjected to the confiscation
of citizenship. The laws also declare several thousand refugees as voluntarily
emigrated and are not allowed to return to the country. Several thousand
citizens have been intimidated to flee and asked to fill up voluntary
migration forms under duress.
demands for establishment of human rights, end of racism and discrimination,
creation of participatory and political institutions, establishment of
a secular political and social order, rule of law, balanced economic growth,
repatriation of Bhutanese are the focal points around which the resolution
of Bhutanese refugee and the political crisis revolves.
Please click on
Bhutan at a
for continuity of the events