nation did not inherit a homogenous history. It has a diverse
past of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious identity.
Its diversity represents a mosaic and not the American 'melting
pot'. A Lhotshampa therefore, is a Bhutanese with an ethnic
Nepali and a Hindu cultural identity. Drukpa tradition has
its roots in feudal Buddhism. which with its central theocratic
doctrine of Drukpa revivalism, is imbued with exclusive preference
for Drukpa culture and mores and prejudiced against the Hindu
present political crisis in Bhutan owes its origin to the
fundamental weaknesses arising form the socio-political institutions
and feudal attitudes that cannot conceive of a national identity
based on anything other than narrow Drukpa ethnic considerations
and imposes Drukpa culture and values on a multi-cultural
and multi-ethnic society. The government is pursuing a programme
to make Bhutan culturally homogenous through a policy it calls,
'One Nation One People'. The implementation of the concept
of 'One Nation and One People' to bring a heterogeneous people
who are living in perfect harmony for centuries under' One
People' was uncalled for. 'One Nation One People' policy aims
at institutionalisation of Drukpa values and culture.
'One Nation One People' policy of the government stresses
the need for a distinct 'national identity', but does not
envision forging this identity to encompass the diversity
of nations' cultures. In the name of national integration
and promoting Bhutanese nationalism, the government used the
rhetoric of 'One Nation One People' to justify its racial
policies of annihilating culture, religion and language of
Lhotshampas, Sharchhops and other minority ethnic, religious
and linguistic groups. The 'One nation and One People' policy
in fact forcefully imposes Drukpa values, customs and
traditions in the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society.
policy is not only likely to endanger the existence of Bhutan's
heterogeneous groups and multi-ethnic society but also to
create ethnocentrism and divided nationalities and
of the country itself. Its consequences are likely to be felt
in the whole of South Asia, which is the homeland of hundreds
of diverse ethnic, religious and cultural groups.
cultural purification policy consists of a series of laws
passes in recent years, culminating in a national dress code,
national code of conduct and uniform language requirements.
January 6, 1989, the king issued a royal decree called 'Driglam
namzha' as part of the promotion of distinct national identity
and the 'One Nation, One People' theme in the Sixth Five-Year
Plan (1986-1991). The edict of King Jigme states that 'all
persons not following this directive will be answerable to
the concerned Dzongdas (Chief District Officers) who have
been vested with full authority to implement this policy'.
The Driglam namzha decree of 1988 that purports to provide
for all the people of Bhutan a code of ethics, in fact, imposes
such code of the Drukpas of the north upon the entire populace.
It deals with matters such as how to eat, how to sit, how
to speak, how to dress and how to bow down before authorities
in true medieval feudalist style. The dress code which banned
the wearing by men and women alike of all other dresses than
that of northern Drukpas, Gho for men and Kira for women (robe
like dresses) is being strictly enforced with penalties imposed
on offenders. Gho and Kira are the traditional costumes of
the northern Drukpas and not at all suited to the warm climate
of the southern foothills. Moreover, the Lhotshampas have
their own traditional dresses. Failure to abide by the Driglam
Namzha is subjected to one week in prison or fine.
Driglam Namza programme, the teaching of Nepali language spoken
by the Lhotshampas was lifted from the school curriculum and
Dzonkha language developed in eighties, was made compulsory.
Failure in Dzonkha resulted in the denial of promotion to
next higher grade in schools and even entry to Civil Service.
Namzha is regarded as state's efforts of enslaving other ethnic
groups and making them subservient to Drukpa ethnocentrism.
Denial of cultural diversity and imposition of forced national
integration policies through forced assimilation and racial
discrimination have created for the Lhotshampas and other
ethnic groups, a virtual apartheid of a Drukpa style.
state presented a Soviet style Drukpanization policy apparently designed
both to undermine any unity of political opposition to the
regime and to prepare the way for eventual assimilation of
non-Drukpa groups of south and eastern Bhutan. Contrary to
the official beliefs, the nature of the regime's policies
has, however, fostered religious, cultural and linguistic
solidarity among the Lhotshampas. History is a witness that
identity has not withered away, rather the conditions under
which diverse ethnicities share a common social space have
DRUKPAS AND FUNDAMENTALISM
forms of Buddhism exists in Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, today.
In Bhutanese context, the role of feudal Buddhism must be understood
in a far more complex scenario. The shaky monarchy has meticulously
intertwined the feudal institutions with Buddhism so that the
existing feudal and autocratic institutions are imbued with
a sacred and exalted place in the Bhutanese psyche.
perception: The Bhutanese are
forced to accept the state and Buddhism as synonymous. The notion
that a traditional Bhutanese Buddhist society will not revolt
against the sacred religio-feudal autocracy was developed. Buddhist
philosophy has been misinterpreted by the political machinery
to perpetuate its autocratic rule and to glorify the king, as
not only the manager of political affairs of the state but also
the guardian of the Buddhist religion in the multi-cultural
kingdom as well as in the immediate region. of Sikkim and even
has led to the fallacious perception that the Nepali speaking
Lhotshampas' reaction to feudal elements, abuses of their
human rights and opposition to the autocratic government is
akin to Hindu rejection of the Buddhist culture. The Royal
Government of Bhutan (RGOB) is justifying the eviction of
Lhotshampas and their assimilation in Nepal by capitalising
on this contrived perception through its propaganda machinery.
Political leadership failed to create distinction between
feudal elements and Buddhist principles. As long as Bhutan
remained isolated it remained possible to save this 'culture',
but once it began to be exposed to modernizing influences,
the feudal aspects of Buddhist culture became rallying point
of weaknesses and criticism.
revivalism: Bhutan is experiencing a Drukpa revivalist
movement since eighties. It is aimed to restore and revive
Drukpa social virtues at the cost of all other social and
ethnic groups. Recent trends in the Drukpa revivalist movement
also demonstrates that it aims to purge the multi-ethnic,
muti-cultural and multi-religious Bhutanese society, which
it thinks as unwanted cultural element of foreign origin.
'Ethnic cleansing' of Lhotshampas is a part of this movement.
The Drukpa revivalism movement seeks to reawaken Drukpa faith
and revive former Drukpa customs and traditions such as Driglam
Namzha through the slogan of 'One Nation, One People' by 'cleansing'
other cultures. The imposition of compulsory wearing of Drukpa
dress and lifting of Nepali language from school curriculum
is an inalienable part of this revivalism. The extreme expression
of Drukpa revivalism and Buddhist fundamentalism has been
manifest in the change of the name of the places to wipe out
the cultural traces of Lhotshampas from the state memory.
Thus, the Nepali names of places like Chirang, Sarbhang, Samchi
and Pinjuli in southern Bhutan were replaced with Drukpa sounding
names like 'Tsirang', 'Sarpang' 'Samtse' and 'Penjoreling".
The royal family, Drasthang ( Drukpa monastic bureaucracy),
Dzonkha language teachers, ministers, businessmen expecting
rewards from the government and traditionalist elements in
the bureaucracy, army and police form the inner core of Drukpa
fundamentalism: The feudal Drukpa Buddhist fundamentalism
has imposed and prescribed strict adherence to the set of
Buddhist dogmas and beliefs among the Bhutanese population.
As an aggressive Drukpa conservative movement, it excludes
and expels those who do not share its conservative faith or
dogmas. Drukpa fundamentalist attitude and traditions reflect
the distrusts of reason. Drukpa traditions such as Driglam
Namzha is a part of fundamentalism that seeks to restore a
Drukpa mythical status quo of Bhutanese society dominated
by the Buddhist clerics and old customs. Theocratic ideology
of clerics and traditional elements are profound in the administration
and pose a challenge to Bhutan as a modern secular nation-state.
The role of Buddhism in Bhutan has direct implication for
Lhotshampas and other non-Buddhist minorities in the multi-religious
refuge of Buddhism, Buddha (omniscient), Dharma (the spiritual
law ) and Sangha (the order) have been politically misinterpreted
to mean Tsa-Wa- Sum or three elements of King, Country and
People in Bhutan to suit ruler's interest. The king now is
elevated at par with the Buddha. New publicity materials depict
the king in heaven shrouded with clouds. Any criticism of
these three elements is considered treason and is subjected
to death sentence. Tek Nath Rizal was sentenced for his opposition
to government. The most important thing about Buddhism in
Bhutan is not what Buddha preached, but how it is being interpreted
by the state leadership through the clergy to perpetuate the
despotic rule. It bears crucial implication for the collective
psyche of the Bhutanese nation.
and Buddhism: The monarchy's
compulsion to maintain its religious legitimacy was designed
to maintain internal political control. Advantage for the
monarchy through an alliance with Buddhism did exist particularly
since the monarchy was never held in awe by the Bhutanese
people as in the case of Nepalese monarchy or even the Dalai
Lama. The monarchy used Buddhism to legitimise the main theme
of its political programmes of perpetuating its rule, immobilising
political opposition, suppressing the democratic movement
and carrying out the ethnic cleansing of Lhotshampas. Monarchy
had to achieve a position of supreme dominance in its religious
discourse and political hegemony. Hence, the monarchy relies
heavily on Buddhist divine laws and traditional agencies not
prone to change, to perpetuate its autocratic rule.
was against this background that the need to revitalise the
Buddhist fundamentalism arose. High ranking lamas deliver
sermons exhorting people to the Drukpa belief and value system.
This did not only influence the religious thoughts of a majority
of Drukpas but also led to an increasing tendency towards
the communalisation of politics. Since eighties, Drukpa elite
view themselves as the only defenders of the country against
heathen encroachments implying Hindu Lhotshampas and Sharchops.
Thus, the Lhotshampas were suddenly found to be illegal immigrants
and the Sharchops of Nyingmapa sect as threat to Drukpa Kargyupa
Buddhism and Drukpa values. The defence of Drukpa values and
Buddhism became powerful form of chauvinist nationalist expression
for the regime to immobilise the political dissidence. Super
patriotism is just a Drukpa eccentricity.
to modernisation: The dream
of a new Drukpa Buddhist state responds to a reaction against
modernisation - a threat to the monarchy. Drukpa Buddhism
as the preserve of the monarch has been used actively by the
state to immobilise the political opposition, marginalization
of young educated people and as a means of consolidating its
political control. Political modernisation has been under
severe check since late seventies. The Drukpa elite are awakening
to a new political awareness to build political programmes
emphasising the traditional, cultural and religious pattern
associated with Buddhism. The whole of Bhutanese society is
planned to be transformed into a feudal Drukpa Buddhist society
with complete individual loyalty to the throne.
society could modernize itself without destroying traditional
family values and without being westernized. Japanese society
successfully adopted the modern institutions, transformed
their ancient feudal hierarchical society without giving up
their traditional family values. Bhutan must build a secular
society, as one cannot construct public policy on religious
grounds. The King must initiate preservation of traditional
values in modern setting rather than plunge the whole country
into medieval revivalism. The regime's bogey of preservation
of traditions and culture are nothing but a shield for protecting
the feudal and despotic rule.
government must understand that one cannot live one's own
spirituality while rejecting other people who do not share
the same convictions. In a civilised society, the state does
not infringe on the individual's rights to culture and religion.
Religion is a medium of communication between an individual
and God, a basic spiritual necessity inherited from the birth
of an individual until his death. Bhutanese administration
has no business to interfere in the religious affairs of its
individual citizen. Bhutanese citizens must not be subjected
to the parochial mindset of the regime depriving them from
enjoying their human rights, freedoms and democratic aspirations,
while the whole world enjoys them. It is surely disappointing
revelation for Buddhist followers world over that the Buddhist
principles are being misinterpreted to serve the political
ends of the Bhutanese ruler and that this their great religion
is being defamed.
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for continuity of the events leading to exodus of Lhotshampas