Cruelty overshadows new democracy

Published on Nov 14 2008 // Opinion
By Buddha Mani Dhakal

Would you imagine any patient lying in the sick bed of hospital handcuffed with oxygen pipes going through the nostrils, the urine pouch slinging by the side and armed police standing on guard? It is what Dhan Kumar Rai, 45, a political prisoner of Chemgang jail was been facing in Thimphu referral hospital recent past. He was admitted to the hospital after he critically fell ill owing to extreme torture.

Dhan Kumar Rai was a civil engineer employed in Druk Air Corporation. A resident of Pakhagaon under Sibsoo Block of Samtse district, Dhan Kumar became a political activist of Bhutan People's Party that organized the peaceful protests rallies in southern central Bhutan in 1990.

After 18 years of torturous life, he was evicted out of country and arrived Nepal on November 5 to join his family who has been taking asylum here since 1990. The cruelty of the Bhutanese dictator did not reflect during his jail years but in his release process as well.

Rai was informed of is release half an hour earlier and was ordered to pack. The filthy act followed, he was escorted down to Phuentsholing by the security personnel to hand him over to his relatives in Bada, Samtse. Not only that he was denied medical treatment in the country but also denied collecting his documents from hospital he had been undergoing treatment.

Health has deteriorated terrifically and it has now become difficult for him to get treatment because all his medical documents are left behind. The royal notification on pardon of prisoners had mentioned that Bhutanese have been given pardons, yet the dictators failed in providing shelter to a citizen who had served the country in a senior position. 

A jail bird imprisoned for lifetime, Rai had undergone a serious phase of trauma, depression and completer nervous breakdown. In June 2007, family members including 79 years old father Ram Bahadur Rai, mother and two brothers, Bhuwan and Suman, were allowed to see him in the hospital bed. It wasn't easy for the family members to communicate with him, neither could he respond to them with normalcy.

Bhuwan describes "we were too much bewildered and shocked to see our brother acting insane when we tried to talk to him. The long imprisonment in solitary confinement and ruthless torture made our brother suffer heavily with acute cardiac and psyche disorders. His body is swollen."

He says, we were not allowed to refer the doctor's report and know precisely what actually his ailments were. According to the family sources, Dr Giri was looking after the treatment or Rai at the time of their visit. But they do not know whether it was just circumstantial or arranged that they could not meet Dr Giri. The Colonel of the police Kipchu informed them that Dr Giri was out of Thimphu then. They requested Kipchu to allow them the treatment to D. K. Rai outside Bhutan which they were assured that it was not necessary at the time.

Talking to BNS, the family said they had planned to make petition for his release if not allowed treatment with intensive care outside Bhutan. However, their plan of petitioning was thwarted when the police chief warned them not to make any such attempts and even threatened to drive away if known to be making the process to forward the petition.

During their 11-day stay in Thimphu, the four members of Rai family were provided a total of Nu 5,000 by which they had to book hotel room, meet the patient's daily requirement of diet and other expenses in medicines.

D. K. Rai's case is the epitome of how political prisoners in Bhutan had been traumatized and forced to senility. Those prisoners had faced several Abhu Ghraibs in Bhutan while being shifted from one detention center to another and finally thrown to goals. Prisoners used to be never presented before the court and no legal procedures allowed. As usual D. K. Ri was not presented to the court until the government faced mounting pressure by ICRC and Amnesty International.

The family members say, the court had given him clearance in the first trail but when the authorities represented him for the second time, all earlier verdicts were nullified and Rai was given the life sentence.

Release of D. K. Rai and other political prisoners has been thrown in limbo for years. Enough exercise for their release has not been made by the Bhutanese political parties and human rights groups. The family approached the party leaders of BPP several times requesting the leadership to launch effective advocacy measures but has received only consolation.

The Rai family is embarrassingly pleading the national and international media to help them save their ailing kin from further deterioration of health. They also fear the death of D. K. Rai in jail if no steps are taken to provide him intensive treatment in advance hospitals which they believe can be done only outside Bhutan.

Tek Nath Rizal shares the same story with D K Rai but only to a lesser period. It is now eighteen odd years that D K and other political prisoners have spent behind the bars away from family care and the days simply counted to approach the inevitable death. Having faced extreme degree of incarceration several other inmates in Thimphu, Wangduephodrang , Haa or Samtse  await the days to live free life in their country where democracy runs unperturbed.

The dizziness of cruel and inhuman behavior of the rulers and their followers are fresh in his mind yet he feels love to his nation and expresses hope to get back and die where he was born. But his immediate needs are to cure his physical pains that he born of his endures though out the jail term.