King leads the notorious action
King Jigme Singye Wangchuk toured the northern districts in 1990s holding public meetings and inculcating in the people the racial hatred. He misinformed the public that the southern Bhutanese of Nepali speaking wanted to disintegrate the country and take power in their hands and make Bhutan like Sikkim as if Bhutan is commodity that southern Bhutanese take on their palm and sale it to a buyer.
If it were the intention of southern Bhutanese, perhaps Bhutan would not have remained a sovereign country. And if southern Bhutanese had not braved to protect the border, the map of Bhutan would have been different or never had a map. It is pity that the very people who fought through danger of wild nature and human and upheld the sovereignty and integrity of Bhutan as a nation have become threat and aliens without provocation. Sacrifice of sweat and blood by thousands in building Bhutan is forgotten in absurd political fear psychosis. He used to uproot the grass and hold upside down as an example and say that the southern Bhutanese should be uprooted like this and sought cooperation of the people.
He provoked the sentiment of the northern Bhutanese to turn hostile to the southern Bhutanese who lived in fraternity and harmony for time immemorial sharing and enjoying good and bad times of history together. He asked youths to join militia and fight the southern Bhutanese. He used to hold meeting of officials sans southern Bhutanese. He visited the districts and condescended to begging people not to leave the country at day in front of the people and observers and in the cover of darkness, he ordered the security forces to go in the villages and intimidate people to leave the country. He told the people of Bhangtar in SamdrupJonkhar district, the most eastern part of Bhutan that he was helpless when people appealed that they were not willing to leave the country to unknown destination and they were forced by the chief district officer (Dzongda) Dorji Wangdi and security forces to sign the Voluntary Migration Form (VMF). The people of Bhangtar eagerly waited for his majesty’s arrival and grouped themselves and gathered in different places in preparation not to miss the opportunity to pour out the grievances. They were also prepared to report about the injustice and harassment meted out to them by the civil authorities and expecting king to punish them to their content. To their exasperation and disgust, least to say the punishment of the culprits, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk said that they should leave the country according to the law if they had already signed the VMF.
The next day people were evicted en masse. The visit and the king in velvet glove was/is widely used as the propaganda tool of the government to convince the outsiders and the international community and impress them that the people left voluntarily in spite king’s personal interference and request not to leave the country. The Kuensel, the mouth piece of the Royal Bhutan Government published the photograph of the king talking to the people and wrote all rhetoric imputing the southern Bhutanese and ascribing the en block eviction, lure of leaders for vested interest to multiply the numbers for International sympathy and support.
In Samchi district when 162 persons were evicted at a time from Dorokha, remote area of the district that takes minimum two days walk to reach the headquarters and borders West Bengal and open to people of India to watch every action of the Bhutan government, the district officials dramatized to be humane and sympathetic to the evictees and stopped them and provided temporary makeshift and food and shed crocodile tears, in pretension requested them not to leave the country.
The king immediately issued a Royal decree (kasho) requesting people not to leave the country and as kindness exempted tax payment for three years as if people were burden by it. If it was not a ruse to eye wash the International community then why that sagacity was only for 162 persons and not for all the southern Bhutanese. In good faith 32 persons were convinced and taken the words of the officials that they would not become victims again consented to stay who later were evicted as returnees. They invited the journalists and reporters of West Bengal of their choice who wrote in favour of the Bhutan government. They interviewed the refugees and published just the opposite of the peoples’ testimony and smoke screened the real scenario.
Many journalists and reporters of renowned newspaper were on pay roll and some made Frisbee trips to Thimpu the capital city of Bhutan and wrote fabricated facts all against their ethic of journalism. The officers were accolade with ranks and largess who could evict maximum southern Bhutanese, inflicted tortures and killed. The six southern districts were declared disturbed area and Royal Bhutan Arm (RBA), Security Forces and Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) were let loose to carry out wanton arrest, tortures, kill, rape, arson, loot, harass, coercion to sign so called voluntary migration form (VMF). Stripped the women stark naked and marched in the village and threw chili powder in their private part and rejoice on their excruciating pain. Confiscate citizenship cards and other documents.
Asked people to report to the district chief office and pay paltry sum of money as gift for properties worth of lakhs of rupees and asked to pose with money in hand in front of the video camera with smiling face before eviction and called voluntary migration. Besides use of force simultaneously applied other means of harassment like incessant census not less than six times in a year, No Objection Certificate mandatory from the police for all purposes, closing of health centres and schools, voluntary labour contribution, provide girls to work in the army camps, restriction of use of lands by the relatives of refugees, curtailed freedom of movement, deprivation of education to the children and employment.
The National Assembly deliberations were orchestrated. The National Assembly members and the Royal advisory councilors, the country’s legislative body who suppose to formulate laws on equity and justice deliberated fierily as taught all against the southern Bhutanese and the diminutive representatives from the south meekly sat in the corner helplessly listening to the thunderous anguish and anger of the northern compatriots and some time to be in good book joined the bogey with uneasiness to condemn and blame the dissidents.
The King Jigme Singye Wangchuk even sought the help of the outside insurgents fighting for separate country from India, United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), and Kamptapuri Liberation Organization (KLO) of West Bengal. He misinformed and impressed them that the government is evicting illegal immigrants as they evicting foreigners like Nepalese, Bangladesh Muslims, Beharis etc. He further fomented ethnic hatred and showed his solidarity in their fight for separate country and Foreigners eviction spree. The royal Bhutan armies were sent to their camps for guerrilla warfare training and initially led the Bhutan army and police in night raids in the villages.
The insurgent leaders and Bhutanese civil, army and police officers walked rubbing shoulders. The king met the top leaders in Tashichodzong and appreciated their help and told not to thank him for providing the Bhutanese soil. It is just friendly gestures as all are friends. He used to visit their camps, embrace the leaders, have breakfast and assure any help that they require. The Royal Bhutan Government provided travel documents to travel abroad and availed foreign currencies to them. Allowed to carry arms and ammunitions and freely move throughout the country. In contrary, southern Bhutanese had to produce documents of proof of Bhutanese to go even from one block to another.
The villagers were told not to bother about them whenever reported to the authority. Partnership businesses were boosted. Fleets of trucks and light vehicles registered in the pseudo Bhutanese plied on the roads. Plethora of supplies flowed into the jungles unchecked. On the other hand, at the same time embargo was imposed on the southern Bhutanese and has to obtain permit to buy and carry a kg of salt. As protected by none other than the king, the insurgents built their strong holds in various places in Bhutan convenient to carry out their operations in India and safely retreat to their camps in Bhutan.
They kept their families and children in the camps and even schools were built for education of the children. However, the words and promise of the king did not hold strong and permanent as protest for sheltering the insurgents and pressure to flush them out mounted on by the government of India. Lastly, the king has to cower and carry out the “Operation clear” in 2003 betraying bosom friends creating bitter misunderstanding and mistrust with the people of neighbouring states and insecurity to own people. To prove his innocence of presence of insurgents in Bhutan, the king himself supervised the operation and jailed 111 innocent people alleged to have facilitated supply of provisions to them as escape goat sparing officials who in fact did big businesses and including himself were the main culprits.
He has forgotten his assurance of words spoken in his coronation in 1974 that he would step into the footstep of his father and follow his policies without wavering and lead the country to the vision laid down without any prejudice. He despised one section of subjects, the southern Bhutanese who his father had granted citizenship in 1958 and treated everyone without distinction of race as equal subjects. Further in his national day speech in Galeyphu on 17th December 1978, he said that the people of southern Bhutan were people not from Darjeeling or elsewhere and all were sons of Palden Drukpa. Therefore, no one should feel or doubt of prejudice of being considered outsiders and stand as one Bhutanese. The words of the king were engraved in the heart and soul of the southern Bhutanese marked by proud conferment of sons of Palden Drukpa. All southern Bhutanese like any northern Bhutanese participated in nation building and shouldered responsibility of development of the country that what Bhutan stands today. The southern Bhutanese never bore slightest of doubt of malevolence from supposed to be magnanimous king who was always adored as the incarnation of God Vishnu in Hindu belief.
However, the evil took over the good as the years passed by. He was possessed by the absurd fear psychosis of southern Bhutanese swamping up the northern Bhutanese and reached the height of senility to use cruelty to distort the demography of the southern Bhutanese to minority. The population of 1.14 million as projected in the UN when becoming the member in 1971 suddenly reduced to 700000 in 1990. The southern Bhutanese who always took side of the Wangchuk dynasty in the time of crisis were considered aliens and treated enemies. Categorised southern Bhutanese in seven categories in the census as like grading apples according its size and colour though give same taste and health giving contents.
The Bhutan government in the beginning denied any presence of Bhutanese in the camps and alleged the refugees all as economic immigrants. After some time acquiesced presence of few Bhutanese when International community and International Human rights Organisations brought out facts, figures and testimony of the victims. When percent proved to be Bhutanese in the verification by the joint verification team of Nepal and Bhutan, Bhutan became panic and coined ploy to avoid taking the refugees with unacceptable conditions on repatriation and thwarted the repatriation. The king Jigme Singye Wangchuk told the International community that the people were economic migrants and forget everything if they get square meal, but could not give answer when presidential candidate of USA John MaCain asked the king during his meeting in Thimpu in 2008, “Mr King you said that the refugees were economic immigrants and will forget everything if they get a square meal. We have taken them to America, provided them good house and good food, yet they say that they want to come back to Bhutan”. Embarrassed king, quickly diverted his talk to danger posed by the melting glacial lakes up in the mountains. Some delegates commented, it does not matter how big the country but matters how witty and cunning. Nevertheless, even fully knowing that the southern Bhutanese are victims of arbitrary and systematic ethnic cleansing and Bhutan government has grossly violated the human rights by evicting 1/7 of its population and becoming highest refugee creator, yet USA and other countries continue to resettle refugees giving clean chit to the perpetrators.
He became so xenophobic to southern Bhutanese that he used to turn away his face whenever, a southern Bhutanese approached for his kindness especially for census formalization and at the same time smiled and spoke jovially to other northern Bhutanese who also approached for the same problem. With disdain look and disappointment the southern Bhutanese had to return from the chamber coupled with fear in mind that at any time the local authority especially the census officials would ask to leave the country as now nowhere to go as failed to get the generosity of the supreme authority, the King. At the same time, the northern Bhutanese would come out of the chamber and run down the corridor with glowing face looking for the executive office to get his work done, not bothering to look at and empathize with the agony of southern Bhutanese friend. What a mockery of his concept and philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and the gullible western intellectuals buy it without value judgment of the abstract. The king has not cultivated hatred only on southern Bhutanese of Nepali speaking but as a whole to the race. All imported Nepalese workers were thrown out of the country even without payment of their wages in 1987/88. Banned teaching of Nepali in the schools in southern Bhutan and strict rule was/is maintained not to allow any Nepali name expatriate workers either Indian or from Nepal in Bhutan. The government prefers people with name Mohamad, Khan, Aktar, Shah etc. to bearing name Bahadur, Prasad, Kumar. Even the name of the districts, sub-divisions, blocks, villages in southern Bhutan were changed. The height of hatred is/was so much so that the king requested the then prime minister of India Chandra Shekhar that he would carve out one district (Samchi) to India to take all the Nepali speaking southern Bhutanese.
The king fully backed the perpetrators irrespective of rank or status that wielded their authority upon southern Bhutanese with impunity so much so as if every action of them was law. The then Deputy Home minister Dago Tshering issued a notice to six districts chief officers stating that “any Bhutanese national leaving the country to assist and help the anti-nationals shall no longer be considered as Bhutanese citizen. It must also be made very clear that such people’s family members living under same household will also be held fully responsible and forfeit their citizenship.”
The malicious intention of disenfranchising the southern Bhutanese is very obvious from the content of the Deputy home minister’s letter and should have been enough evidence to the International community to take action on Bhutan government. Perhaps if such letter were issued by Slobodan Milosovic or Saddam Hussain, the International community would have wasted no time to hang them. Fortunately it was by the deputy minister of the King Jigme Singye Wangchuk who the International community favours and condoned all atrocities meted out to a race. To southern Bhutanese, the King Jigme Singye Wangchuk had committed no lesser crime and racial discrimination than the two. A census officer, boast of appreciation of his work by the king and consultation on issue of census. Head teacher (wife of ex-Dzongda) of Dagana Primary school in 2001 openly told the people “ white paper in lieu of Identity card and F5 means to go to Nepal. Why these people are lingering here?” Former Palace cook turned businessman, Sonam Dukpa was given full security command as titled TIGER and maintenance of law and order of district Samdrup Jongkhar in 1990s. He tortured to death block mondal (village head) of Dalim, Bhakta Bahadur Pokhrel and shot dead Indra Prasad Pathak in Chirang. A killer district chief officer Lhakpa Dorji, was let scot free and still enjoys government perks and emoluments who snatched a self loading rifle (SLR) from the army captain and randomly shot the people gathered for public meeting killing Dil Bahadur Ghalley on the spot and injured many at chengmari in Samchi in 1990, also killed a monk in Mongar district in Eastern Bhutan in 1997. The Lamidara Dungpa (sub-division officer) in 1990 snatched self loading rifle (SLR) from a soldier and indiscriminately fired at people sitting for the meeting killing 4 persons on the spot and injuring many. He was promoted to Deputy Dzongda. Royal Body Guard lieutenant Chemi Dorji, the TIGER in Chirang was a terror. He tortured to death Dharma Raj Gurung of Dagana district and tortured and inhumanly harassed almost all people of Chirang till they acquiesced to leave the country. The king promoted him to Lt. colonel. There is no account of custodial deaths and needless to say about the inhuman tortures in the prisons.
The joint secretary of home ministry, in-charge of internal law and security, formal brother-in-law of king Jigme Singye Wangchuk, Tshering Wangda often travelled to border area with suitcase full of crisp notes to bribe the thugs and influential people and police of Assam and West Bengal seeking their help to arrest or prevent any activity of the refugees. He used to grit his teeth in anger on sight of southern Bhutanese, abused and spat alleging anti-nationals. The then Home minister, Thinley Gyamtsho deliberated in the National assembly that nowhere in the world the relatives of anti-nationals are given free movement and government service. 219 relatives of Bhutanese refugees living in the camps in Nepal were terminated from the government services in 1993. The recruitment of southern Bhutanese in Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) and Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) were stopped from 1990 and phasing out those who were already in service by retirement and termination.
The king had sought not only the public and government machineries support to inflict wounds to southern Bhutanese. The monks and black tantric too invoked the evil spirit to spell harms on the southern Bhutanese and performed black magic to destroy. How it works and affects is a question, but the practice is very much exists and is obvious from the statement of some prisoners that the monks chanting mantras and policemen asked them to stand on the heap of soil covered with colourful clothes at mid night and extracted blood from them. To substantiate it further, the Sarbhang district officials, census officials and the security forces chased out the family of Gurbathan Mongar, former National Assembly member of Bhutan with chanting of mantras by the monks, smearing flour on their bodies, burning inauspicious maize flour and incense, beating drums, human skull drums, cymbals, blowing conch shell and human femur bone, chiming bells and howling like wolves. The king even offered red scarf (honour) to a black tantric in 1993. The Je Khenpo (holy Abbot) of Bhutan, the principle guardian of monks, monasteries and religion of Bhutan that upholds nonviolence and belief that even stepping on an ant is a sin and daily prays for good of all sentient beings on the earth never raised a word of offense when Southern Bhutanese were mercilessly killed, bludgeoned, inflicted wounds, tortures, harassed, raped, looted, burnt down the houses, imprisoned, starved and not provided treatment falling sick and flagrantly discriminated and evicted to unknown destination causing human miseries.
Though he saw and sees hundreds of southern Bhutanese with grimace faces scouring the corridor of Tashichodzong, his abode, for sagacity of the king but never spoke/ speaks a word of compassion to them. He went/ goes around performing prayers, holding religious ceremonies for the long live of the kings and the Royal families and invoking evils to vanquish the opposite forces. His holiness accedes to the sanctity of the evil actions of the perpetrators in contrast to Budhism that teaches compassion. Very often we hear the vainglory Jingoes saying that they are protected by the triple gems and by the blessings of the guardian deities. His holiness Je Khenpo is unholy to the southern Bhutanese and the king Jigme Singye Wangchuk is culprit. The commission of international tribunal and independent fact finding will only establish the facts and magnitude of atrocities meted out to the southern Bhutanese and how deep the wound and pain they are carrying.
(Subba is the chairman of the Human Rights Organisation of Bhutan (HUROB) and the feelings expressed here are his personal and does not necessarily reflect those of APFAnews.com)