discrimination, exclusion, alienation preference based on
descent, race and ethnic origin, are hallmark Bhutanese state
policy. This is creating untold misery for the Lhotshampas
and the Sharchhop population in Bhutan. State sponsored apartheid
laws and policies have
remained a major stumbling block in the repatriation
of Bhutanese refugees and the realisation of human rights
by various ethnic, linguistic and religious
Bhutan. The total
elimination and mass expulsion of Nepali speaking Lhotshampa
citizens of southern Bhutan is the target of the racist Drukpa
regime .The Drukpa led Royal regime harbours racial hatred
against Lhotshampas for organising protests against
the racial policies
of Royal Government
of Bhutan (RGOB).The Lhotshampas were forced to leave their
country not because of civil war or foreign intervention but
because of the racist and ethnocentric policies of those in
power. Bhutanese refugees are not the root cause of themselves
, they are the effects or symptom of the deep-rooted crisis
of a racist Bhutanese polity, which stresses the need for
a distinct 'national identity' but does not envision forging
this identity to encompass the diversity of the nation's cultures.
The ruling elite want to colonise the minority
cultures by hegemony domination, repression and eviction.
Nepal had outlined three options
for solving the Bhutanese refugee problem.
Solution to be sought through
Indian assistance and
Pursuant to first option it
sought bilateral initiative. It held nine round of bilateral
negotiations with Bhutan without any success. Bhutan’s recalcitrance
and intransigence had pushed the Bhutan-Nepal Joint Ministerial
Level Committee (JMC) bilateral talk on repatriation of Bhutanese
refugees to deadlock in the past.
Bhutan instead of cooperating with Nepal for the resolution
of refugee issue, was deliberately procrastinating the repatriation
process through never-ending bilateral talks, while it
campaigned among the international for disbanding of
refugee camps and assimilation of refugees in Nepal.
India said that the refugee
issue is technically a bilateral issue and it be resolved
through bilateral initiatives. It refused to be involved in
Since the first two options
became almost redundant the only option left was internationalisation
of the refugee issue.
The refugee problem persisted too long and the bilateral
talk was dawdling, demanding an immediate internationalization
of the refugee issue. Tired of end-less and futile Nepal-Bhutan
bilateral talk, Bhutanese
refugees started seeking direct intervention of international community
to mitigate their suffering. The Bhutanese refugee issue was
getting internationalised through the refugees’ own efforts,
since they knew that only support from the world community
would be able to make a difference. On the need of international
mediation on Bhutanese refugee issue, Kenneth Roth of Human
Rights Watch, USA aptly wrote in the American Wall Street Journal 6/8/99 thus,
“ The lesson of
Bhutan and other refugee crisis around the world is
that refugees return only if other countries make it happen.
The bright glare of the outside attention is the key”. Bhutanese
refugee situation could not be more different from Kosovo.
He said that the Kosovar refugees get more importance because
of their European extraction.
Bhutan came under an increasing
pressure from the international community due to its uncooperative
and un-accomodative attitude,
to resolve the refugee impasse. That Bhutan was under
increased international pressure was evident from the second
resolution of the European Parliament (EP), concerns expressed
in the Round Table Meeting (RTM) of Bhutan’s development partners
and the recommendation of the United States of America. The European Parliament passed two resolutions on the refugee issue
in March 1996 and September 2000. ( Please see the Resolutions)
European Parliament: The European Parliament, denouncing
the deplorable situation of Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal,
called on the governments of Bhutan and Nepal, in cooperation
with all other parties involved, speed up the process of repatriation
of refugees to their country of origin. It urged the Bhutanese
authorities to accept the UNHCR compromise for a speedy verification
and time-bound repatriation. It recognised the goodwill of Nepal in accepting the refugees
"who are the victims of arbitrary deprivation of nationality
and forcible eviction , who came to Nepal through India, and
also urged Indian authorities not to consider the Bhutanese
refugee issue as one of the bilateral matters and help resolve
the refugee issue.
Donors’ Concerns: The Seventh Round Table Meeting (RTM)
of development partners for Bhutan was held in Thimphu Bhutan
on 7-9 November 2000. Some donor nations and agencies made
statement on discrimination against Lhotshampas and on the
The Danish delegation said
that the Nepalese speaking Lhotshampas reported to have been
treated as second class citizens, were retrenched from the
government service, are not being provided citizenship or
identity cards and are being denied education, government
employment or trade licenses due to the lack of security-clearance.
Several other allegations of discrimination are being mentioned.
He said that Bhutan should eliminate discriminatory laws and
practices so that all permanent residents of Bhutan can be
fully integrated into Bhutanese society. The Austrian diplomat
said "commercial refugees" in the context of Europe
should not be confused with the ‘status of minorities’ (Lhotshampas),
residing in the country for many years and respecting its
leadership and the government. Austria supports the cause
that refugees in Nepal should go back home. Only a policy
of inclusion of all groups in the development of Bhutan will
produce long -term sustainability in economic, social and
political field of Bhutan, he said.
Dutch diplomat said that encouragement
of freedom of expression, press, organisation does not imply
violation of Bhutan’s consensus-culture, which will be good
for conflict resolution. It may be noted that Bhutan does
not allow freedom of speech, expression, press and organisation
in the country. Japanese diplomat said that his country believed
in a fair and equitable solution of refugee problems.
US PROPOSAL: The
much overdue American
attention and concern about the Bhutanese refugee issue came
through the proposal of the Assistant Secretaries of the US
State Department for South Asia Karl Inderfurth and the Bureau
of Population, Refugees and Migration Julia Taft who visited
Nepal and Bhutan in November/ December, 2000. The US government
came up with a fresh proposal in an attempt to speed up the
never-started process of repatriation.
Taft proposed to "identify
the refugees and the head of a nuclear family, who would then
identify the members of his/her family. Having agreed upon
this, they could proceed on with an actual verification process
and determine which of the four categories of the nuclear
family, identified by the family head, are qualified to go
home". This statement almost comes closer to Nepal’s
proposal. In his letters, Bill Clinton urged Bhutan to reach
an agreement with Nepal to begin the process of verification
for the repatriation of refugees during the Tenth Round in
Kathmandu. If Bhutan fails to agree to the US proposal, the
US has said it would urge multilateral donors to divert international
aid from Bhutan to the refugee camps through UNHCR.
As a result of international
pressure Bhutan agreed to constitute the Joint Verification
Team (JVT) on March 26, 2001. The JVT has been interviewing
refugees since then. But the process of JVT is too slow. No
time-frame has been agreed on when to complete the verification
process. It will take more than a decade to repatriate refugees,
if the pace of current verification is not increased.
The challenge for the international
community now is to monitor that the verification process
is fair, equitable and time-bound and to keep continuous pressure
on Bhutan until all refugees can go back home.
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