a strategy for
stalling the repatriation of refugees, King Jigme obtained
legislative mandate from the Drukpa dominated and his rubber
stamp National Assembly in its 75th Session held
from June 20, 1997 for resettlement of northerners
and easterners in the land formerly owned by the Nepali-speaking
Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. Accordingly, a
high level National Resettlement Committee comprising
the Home Minster, Chief of Royal Bhutan Army, Secretary of
Agriculture and Secretary of Survey department was constituted
to implement the resettlement programmes. The idea was that
if there are no lands the
refugees would not return a clear signal that the government
is not interested in solving the southern problems. Since
then the Royal Government
of Bhutan has been transferring population from other parts
in the lands of refugees in Southern Bhutan, thus, blocking
the chances for the refugees’ going home.
government tried to implement its newly acquired legislative mandate
by trying to invite 60,000 Bangladeshi Buddhist
Chakma refugees in India to permanently settle down
in the lands left behind by the Lhotshampa refugees. However,
the Chakmas were reportedly turned down the offer. They were
later repatriated to Bangladesh.
This is also a clear indication that the government
is trying to find the solution for southern Bhutanese problems
from not within the country but outside.
refusal by the Chakmas made the government turn to the Sharchops.
The government wants to kill two birds with one stone. It
wants to create a rift between the Lhotshampas and the Sharchops.
The government as a pilot project,
initially announced settled
370 landless Sharchhop families from Tashigang in the
south in the first phase.
The government already distributed
land left behind by the Lhotshampas in Chirangdara,
Changkha, Khibisha, and Surey
blocks of Chirang, Dagana and Sarbhang
districts in the southern Bhutan in the last week of
government started allotting 10 acres of land of refugees
to each house hold. Since
the highlander Sharchops were reluctant
to settle in the tropical
south, the government
paid Nu/Rs. 10,000 to each selected house hold
as incentive for resettlement.
The second instalment of Nu/Rs. 100,000 is payable
when the government is fully convinced of full establishment
of the household. The
intimidating the Sharchops in hushed tone
that if they do not support the government’s resettlement
will be shown the exit door too.
government is making
the resettlement programme look like as if it was undertaken
at the request of Nepali-speaking villagers. The real
objective is not of resettling the landless, but of preventing
the repatriation of refugees permanently and to force
get assimilated in Nepal,
at all cost.
the one hand, Bhutan is interviewing refugees for their eventual
repatriation through the creation of Joint Verification Team.
On the other hand, it is continuing its resettlement programme
in southern Bhutan. If the resettlement is not stopped, where
will the refugees go?
The King of Bhutan in his national day address on December 17,
2002 indicated the continuation of resettlement programme and
allotment of land to 600 families
in southern Bhutan. This clearly demonstrates
desire to sabotage any attempt of refugee repatriation to
their original homesteads. The resettlement must be stopped.