In the Country of GNH

Published on Apr 05 2011 // Opinion
By S. B. Subba

The fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuk conceptualized the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) following eviction of tens of thousands of Nepali speaking Bhutanese.  This hollow philosophy has been now adopted as government policy by his son. The government is campaigning to sell the abstract philosophy to the gullible westerners who have been silent observers for years.  The Prime Minister of Bhutan Jigme Y Thinley says even dogs smile in Bhutan. In a sense, he might be right because in Bhutan only the dogs have freedom, and they freely bark.

It would be relevant to put forth few instances that may be interesting to the readers to read the real situation inside Bhutan. A Minister’s son goes to the government office, threatens life of a lady and batter for not processing the transfer of his girl friend. Then, he gets away compensating the lady with an amount of just Rs. 10,000.

Next, the Police officer goes to the remote village and beats up mother and son and further justifies his misdeed.

In contrast, a monk gets three years imprisonment for carrying few packets of tobacco ignorantly and for personal consumption with no ill intention of making profit or causing any health hazard to others.
Interestingly, a murderer get three year bailable sentence but non-bailable of three years imprisonment if one is caught carrying a packet of tobacco.

Not only the human rights organizations, even the women organizations that are supposed to protect the rights and safe guard the honor of women are turning deaf ear to the silents sufferings of the people. Bhutan government as its dual Character, befittingly maintains dual interpretation of law in Dzongkha and in English and apply whichever is suitable and convenient to punish the victims rather than using ingenuity of jurisprudence.

The Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley speaks of equity and just in his every addresses. But, his ruthless treatment with injustice and unfair social welfare to the laborers who are in fact the back bone of the infrastructural developments could be easily interpreted. When the salary of the government employees and the MPs were revised two times in the span of three years, the wage of the laborers remained stagnant to Rs. 100 per day with hard labour from 7 am till 5pm. Although the labour Act 2007 enacted probably sans economic welfare as if the escalating price does not affect the poor. And soon Bhutan is going to become the member of the International Labor organization (ILO) which the ILO should allow unless the wage, security and social welfare of the laborers are compatible to International standard. The apathetic attitude towards the poor has been in fact boon for the rich.

The constitution says that Bhutan is a secular country and the king is the custodian of all the religions. The Buddhist philosophy and principles of respect, tolerance and co-existence is the fundamental guiding factor and pivot that GNH revolves on. In contrary to its secularism, Bhutan has not been respecting other religions. On 28th February 2011, 16 Christians, including three female while conducting prayer in Christian house in the remote village under Sarbhang district were arrested. They were set free after three days with a condition that they would not commit such offense of conducting Christian prayer.

Another Christian faith holder Prem Singh Gurung was arrested following documentary film show of Jesus Christ in Sarbhang district. He was convicted by the Galephu court for trying to create unrest, and not taking prior permission from the concerned authorities. He has been serving three years imprisonment. Ironically, although the Bhutanese government dislikes the Christian religion, it wholeheartedly welcomes the flow of millions dollar from the Christian hands.

Although the PM says they treat everyone equally, but in practical the actions are inhuman especially towards the southern Bhutanese who are perpetually subjected to discrimination and injustice.

One more example speaks of this reality. Despite his repeated attempt, a person could not get the name transferred to his own for the land that was inherited to him by his father. He went to the extent that he even approached the PM and even the king. He ended up getting arrested along with his land buyer for plucking own betel nuts and selling.

Some Drukpas who have some soft corner to the Nepalese have to risk their lives. Ms Dechen Wangmo, the owner of the Phajuding School in Phuntsholing who was sympathetic to the southern Bhutanese was alleged to have connived with the refugees and is jailed for 15 years.

Since 1990, the southern Bhutanese are expiated for no fault and are victims of biased justice, indifference and inequality. After 1990, there is no single recruitment of southern Bhutanese in the Royal Bhutan army, Royal Bhutan Police and Bhutan Arm Force. There is no single southern Bhutanese in civil administration. In foreign Ministry, the is even not a peon. There are about 80,000 relatives of the refugees who still are living in Bhutan but are people of neither there nor here. Their citizenship is in question and they have been deprived from every government opportunity. They have no right to cast vote.

It is mandatory to produce security clearance certificate from the police even for admission of children in the school. The relatives of refugees could not be issued security clearance. These people are categorized in seven categories in the census record and the stigma is the trade mark of non-entity. These people are not allowed to mend the land left by their kith and kin. Moreover, the lands are being distributed to northern Bhutanese creating complication in the event of repatriation. The government has changed the names of the blocks, villages and the land registration number in order to annihilate the southern Bhutanese and wipe off history and all the evidences of southern Bhutanese living there. The International Communities acting bystander has further supported the Druk dictators.

The core countries of aid for Bhutanese refugees, especially the United States of America, so called the champion of Human rights and democracy in the world is responsible for what is happening in Bhutan.

Unless the International communities work towards studying the real situation inside Bhutan, the government will always smother up the real facts with humility. Bombarding Libya in the name of protection of civilians to dethrone Gadaffi who is antagonist to western countries especially America may be praise worthy. Contrarily, praising and protecting king Jigme Singye Wangchuk and his predecessors who ruled the country with iron hand for 100 years could be harassment to the innocent Bhutanese. His successor, king Jigme Khesar Wangchuk who inherited the throne in 2007 has further aggravated the people’s sufferings.

GNH has been the privilege to the native-Drukpas only and it may be little appealing to the outsiders who do not know the real situation inside. It has a little flavor in the country which is overwhelmed by agony of tragedies, unhappiness, unemployment, poverty, injustice, suppression, nepotism and favoritism. In a real sense, the southern Bhutanese are the victims of Gross National Happiness.

The author is Chairman of the Human Rights Organization of Bhutan.