Founder-chairperson of the Druk National Congress (DNC), Rongthong Kunley Dorji, died on Oct 19, 2011 in Gangtok, Sikkim while undergoing treatment for multiple complications in Manipal Institute of Medical Science. He was 73.
STATEMENT FROM HIS PARTY
The Druk National Congress is sad to learn that Mr. Rongthong KunleyDorji, Founding President of the party passed away peacefully at 11 pm on 19th October 2011 at Manipal Institute of Medical Science, Gangtok, Sikkim.
The family member intimated to the party that he had been recently ailing from complication related to his chronic diabetes and other problems.
The Druk National Congress (DNC) expressed heartfelt condolences to his family members and prays for the peace of departed pious soul.
His immense contribution towards the establishment of constitutional democracy in Bhutan will always remain in the hearts of Bhutanese people.
The DNC expresses its gratefulness to all friends and well-wishers in and outside Bhutan, people of India, Nepal and the world over for their support to Bhutan’s historic journey to democracy.
Date: 20th October 2011
CONDOLENCE FROM BHUTAN MEDIA SOCIETY
The Bhutan Media Society was saddened by the untimely demise of great freedom fighter and Founding-Chairman of the Druk National Congress. The Society would like to extend heartfelt condolences to late Dorji’s family and DNC cadres.
Passing of late Dorji, who suffered a lot during his detention time in Bhutan’s prison for the common cause citizens, has left a strong set back in the ongoing democratic struggle of Bhutanese citizens.
Late Dorji was a strong supporter of media in exile. He always extended his helping hands towards media activities in exile.
The Society feels that every Bhutanese will feel lack of Dorji in the upcoming days.
May his departed soul rest in peace in heaven!
20th October 2011
BHUTANESE DEMOCRACY STRUGGLE BIDS BYE TO ITS AMBLE FIGHTER
By I. P. Adhikari
The Bhutanese democratic movement will not face any such terrible setbacks as it faces today – with the demise of Rongthong Kuenly Dorji. The contribution of Late Dorji will shine in golden letters in the history of Bhutanese democratic struggle. Stepping down from a luxury life to work with the most marginalized and suppressed section of the people, Dorji heightened his personality as a true leader of the Bhutanese citizens.
His story of torture, trauma and hardships in pursuit of democracy is beyond our recall. He was truly an inspiration for Bhutanese committed to democracy and people’s fundamental rights.
Dorji was arrested in Bhutan in May 18, 1991, on charges of allegedly being involved in the pro-democracy movement, imprisoned without trail or process of law and was kept in the most inhuman conditions and tortured for 49 days.
It was only after such cruel treatment that he was granted Royal pardon on July 6, 1991 and released from prison. The pardon document evidences the fact that his arrest and detention was of a political character, particularly because the signatories are no less than the Bhutanese Home Minister, Chief Justice of Bhutan, and other senior Bhutanese Government officials.
He had to leave for Gawahati, Assam, immediately thereafter, on July 8, 1991, to seek treatment for the injuries caused to him due to the torture during imprisonment. His treatment continued for almost a month. While undergoing treatment he learnt from a reliable source that he would be kidnapped from Gawahati by the Bhutanese security forces, re-arrested and eliminated, he thus fled for Nepal on August 3, 1991, with the help of well-wishers and friends.
He was examined by the Centre for the Victims of Torture in Nepal (CVICT) and its certificate evidences that he was tortured by third-degree methods in Bhutan. In Nepal the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR) granted him refugee status based on which His Majesty’s Government of Nepal granted him political asylum.
Unable to let down his countrymen and bowing down to their constant pressure from both inside and outside Bhutan, Dorji formed the Druk National Congress in June 16, 1994, to work for the establishment of democracy in Bhutan under Constitutional Monarchy. He was unanimously elected as the Party’s chairman.
Anticipating the potential political threat, the Royal Bhutanese Government had been continuously trying to entice Dorji to come back to Bhutan.
In 1993, Dorji’s brother, who was a Director in the Ministry of Home was transferred to a North-western district as its Chief District Administrator. Despite knowing about his susceptibility to mountain sickness, he was ordered to accompany a survey team to the northern borders. He fell ill on the way and despite being in serious condition had to walk back to the nearest town, a day’s walk away. He died on the way. Rescue helicopters are sent to evacuate even the junior-most soldiers when their condition is life-threatening, but in the case of Dorji’s brother, who was the senior-most government officer of the District, no helicopter was sent. Dorji was contacted by the Bhutanese ambassador in New Delhi with a message from the King offering him security to come to Bhutan to attend his brother’s funeral. Dorji, informed about the plot and the trap by his supporters in the country, declined the offer.
In 1994, after the formation of the Druk National Congress, the then Chief of Police, who was also Dorji’s brother-in-law, was sent to Nepal by the King to persuade Dorji to return to Bhutan. He was offered whatever material wealth he desired in exchange for an offer to come back to Bhutan. He refused. The Chief of Police was thrown into prison on fabricated charges to serve a three-year jail-term for his failure to bring Dorji back to Bhutan.
In 1995, for the first time, the National Assembly of Bhutan, which had never before in its sessions in 1991, 1992 or 1993 mentioned Dorji’s activities in exile or his alleged loan defaults, began labeling such allegations against him. (In 1994, the year Dorji formed the Druk National Congress, the Royal Bhutanese Government, in a dilemma did not call any National Assembly session. It is pertinent to mention that the then National Assembly of Bhutan used to functions merely as a rubber stamp of king and no popular elections were held to elect its members).
Dorji led the Druk National Congress to successfully implement its programs particularly inside Bhutan, and the Bhutanese democracy movement consolidated under his leadership. In keeping with his responsibilities, he began to visit India to interact with Indian policy-makers and the Indian people. His interaction with Indian political circle had won favor of many influential personalities of India in support of the Bhutan’s democratic struggle.
The Bhutanese government panicked, apprehensive of the inevitable political change in Bhutan that would strike at the very foundation of its autocratic rule, and began to manufacture ways and means, fair or foul, to crush the Bhutanese movement for democracy. Thus, Dorji was arrested on the 18th of April, 1997 in New Delhi, on the pretext that he did not posses travel documents. Later, he faced extradition proceedings in India, in pursuance of an extradition request by the Bhutan to the Government of India.
Given the facts of the case, it is more than obvious that the wrong legal issues and circumstances have been erroneously addressed in a highly irrational, unreasonable manner while taking the decision to initiate the extradition proceedings, since no prima facie case is made out against Dorji, i.e. there is no satisfaction recorded that any sufficient ground for proceeding against him exists, and the complaint shows that, on the face of it, the essential ingredients of the extradition offence are absent, therefore any extradition proceedings against Dorji would constitute a political abuse of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962.
The attempt to extradite Dorji to Bhutan was a move designed solely in that direction.
The Royal Court of Justice, High Court of Bhutan, allegedly issued the warrant dated December 20, 1996, against Dorji on an alleged application dated December 20, 1996, made by the Royal Bhutan Police requesting for the same. The said Royal Court of Justice, as per its alleged judgment dated December 20, 1996, “carefully examined” all the different cases by making detailed investigations (in the various parts of the country), and passed its judgment and issued the warrant of arrest the very same day the application was received i. e. December 20, 1996. (It can be also noted that the dispatch number of the arrest warrant is HC (CJ-1)96-97/4046, and the judgment to issue the arrest warrant is HC(CJ-1) 96-97/4047, suggesting that the arrest warrant was issued before the judgment). The Home Minister of Bhutan, made an official request dated February 12, 1997, to the Government of India for Dorji’s extradition to Bhutan.
Based on this Royal Bhutanese request, the Government of India began extradition proceeding against Dorji vide its order dated July 1, 1997.
On realizing that as per Indian extradition law, (i) a person’s extradition cannot be sought for offences of a political character, (ii) that the warrant dated December 20, 1996, included offences of political character, (iii) that Dorji’s extradition would not be possible if based on the said warrant, the Royal Bhutanese Government manufactured another warrant dated April 25, 1997, which excluded the political charges. Repeating the same exercise, the Royal Bhutan Police allegedly makes an application dated April 24, 1997, to the Court of Justice, upon which the Court of Justice makes a detailed investigation and allegedly passes a judgment on April 25, 1997 and the warrant of arrest is allegedly issued on the same day i. e. April 25, 1997. Another Extradition Agreement, allegedly signed between Bhutan and India on December 28, 1996, is notified on May 21, 1997, to facilitate Dorji’s extradition. Then another extradition request dated June 25, 1997, was made by the Bhutanese Home Minister to the Government of India again requesting for Dorji’s extradition based on the new documents.
The documents supplied by the Royal Bhutanese Government to the Government of India in support of their extradition request can be divided into two parts. One, the documents related to financial matters which allegedly date pre-1991, and two, the documents related to the acts alleged to have been committed by Dorji after 1994, i.e. after the formation of the Druk National Congress.
The first group of fabricated charges is commercial transactions governed by the Loan Act of Bhutan, which provides procedures of civil nature for recovery of such loans. None of these charges involve any criminality or culpability in it. The documents do not contain any material to show on-going litigation or any evidence to support the charges and no criminal case or any criminal prosecution is pending against Dorji in these cases. Moreover the documents reveal contradictions, fabrications, including circumvention and violation of their own laws by the Royal Bhutanese Government in a bid to fabricate a case against Dorji. Particularly, as per the Thrimzhung Chhenpo (the Supreme Law of the Land), such unlawful acts must be brought to the notice to the Court of law within 7 days from the day such transaction was undertaken, otherwise the Court shall not entertain any complaint. Therefore, this Bhutanese statute alone renders all the charges in this group null and void under Section 31(b) of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962.
The second group of charges pertains to the post-1994 era, which saw the intensification of the Bhutanese pro-democracy movement under Dorji’s leadership. None of these fabricated charges make out any case under the National Security Act as claimed by the Royal Bhutanese Government, or for that matter under any other law of Bhutan, as the documents do not reveal anything to corroborate the charges. Even otherwise, all these charges are of political character and it is evident that the requisition for Dorji’s extradition has been sought in order to punish him for his and his Party’s active participation with other political and human rights organizations in the effort to seek a change in the system of governance in Bhutan by establishing democracy under Constitutional Monarchy. Section 31(a) of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962 prohibits the extradition of anyone if the offence in respect of which his extradition is sought is of a political character or if he is sought to be punished for an offence of political character.
The political character of both groups of charges is evident from the documents, which evidences that until the formation of the Druk National Congress in 1994, there were no allegation against Dorji and that all the charges, including those of pre-1991, have been fabricated after 1994. The Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office, responsible for his initial arrest and detention, has confirmed Dorji as a political personality by noting in its order, dated May 17,1997, that “according to the MEA/MHA (India), Dorji is the Chairman of the United Front for Democracy in Bhutan, whose avowed aim is the seek a change in the system of governance in that country”.
The mala fide nature of the extradition request and the extradition proceeding against Dorji is evident from the fact that he was residing in Nepal for almost 6 years after coming to Nepal in 1991, and despite this, his extradition is sought from India, where he had never lived before.
The letter from the India’s Ministry of External Affairs to the Ministry of Home Affairs dated, April 17, 1997, clarifies that when Dorji was arrested, the existing arrangement for extradition between India and Bhutan are governed by paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the treaty between India and Bhutan, 1949, yet he was then being tried retrospectively under the new Extradition Agreement. The legality of the new Extradition Agreement between the two countries notified on May 21, 1997 is questionable and suffers from a lacuna in that the prima facie does not apply. As per this agreement, Bhutan, a non-Commonwealth country, to which the provisions of Chapter II of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962 always applied, is now subject to the provisions of Chapter III. Chapter III applies only to Commonwealth countries with a common, essentially-the-same law and a summary procedure for the extradition and trial of fugitive criminals. This change from Chapter II to Chapter III is inconsistent with the laws guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution of India and the provisions of this agreement are inconsistent with Articles 53 and 71 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969. It is also significant to note that although there existed an extradition treaty between the two countries since 1949, no request for the surrender of any Bhutanese subject has ever been received by India from Bhutan and Dorji’s is the first such case. It is clear that this new agreement, notified a month after Dorji was arrested for extradition, was executed as it seemed expedient to apply the provisions of Chapter III of the Indian Extradition Act to facilitate the extradition of Dorji.
Amongst the numerous documents available on Bhutan’s human rights record, the first report of the SAARC Jurist Mission to Bhutan, titled “The Bhutan Tragedy, when will it end”, Amnesty International’s report on Bhutan titled “crackdown on the ‘anti-nationals’ in the East” and the US State Department’s Country report on human rights, show that Bhutan has been continuously indulging in atrocities against its citizens and gross violations of human rights. The reports also show that Bhutan has no proper legal system, and that its laws are overtly discriminatory, prohibiting any opposition to the government, denying fair public trails and awarding severest punishment for such “offences”.
Various Indian and international organizations and eminent individuals, including freedom fighters, and political and social personalities, had come out in support of Dorji, demanding the withdrawal of his extradition case and his release. The media too has been keenly following the events.
Dorji was finally released on bail on July 14, 1998. The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi, in-charge of the case, cited the political nature of the charges and evidence of its fabrication, as being the basis of his judgment dated 2.6.98, ordering the release of Mr. Dorji on bail, pending the final outcome of the extradition proceedings.
It was late 2009 that the Delhi High Court finally trashed out all allegations filed against Dorji (listen to link below regarding this). However, it was pre-planned in the Indian political circle to subdue Bhutanese democratic movement.
Death of Dorji shocked many in diaspora and inside Bhutan. Living in fear, supporters from within Bhutan denied publishing their statements while those in exile have expressed sadness and marked this incident as a huge loss to democratic struggle.
Bhutan National Democratic Party in its statement said, ‘Rongthong Kuenley Dorji had been a great friend of Bhutan National Democratic Party and we had several opportunities to work together in the movement since the establishment of Druk National Congress in 1994. Sri Rongthong Kuenley Dorji was a kind person dedicated for the establishment of egalitarian political system that would promote and protect the rights of all ethnic groups in Bhutan under the framework of constitutional monarchy. On his demise the Bhutan democratic movement lost a charismatic leader whose absence will be felt deeply by the freedom loving people of Bhutan both in exile and inside the country.’
DORJI’S LIFE AND STRUGGLE: A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
By R. P. Subba
The sudden demise of Rongthong Kuenley Dorjee on October 19, 2011 in Sikkim leaves a deep crevice in the Bhutanese movement for democracy and justice. It will hurt the Druk National Congress (DNC) for a long time and it will hurt badly. Dorjee has carved his own position in the history of the democratic struggle in Bhutan. As a leader, he was the face of the pro-democracy movement; and as such he leaves behind strong foot prints on the Bhutanese movement on his departure.
The leadership vacuum created by his sudden departure cannot be restored in a short time. He is the first prominent non-nepali speaking Bhutanese flag carrier of democracy and human rights. He lived in the heart of the game for a very long time, until his death. On is death, he becomes the Mahasur of eastern Bhutan. Like Mahasur, Dorjee will be remembered in Bhutanese history for his brave contributions and for setting a great example. This history will also record the rulers of Bhutan for who they are. The third king Jigme Dorjee Wangchuk alias the father of the modern Bhutan buried one of the bravest sons of Bhutan (Mahasur Chhetri) into the cold waters of Sunkosh; while the fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuk was the cause behind Dorjee’s death in exile. A history of their greatness will remain incomplete without mentioning the contributions made by these rulers.
In a country, where canvassing for democracy and human right is a treasonable crime, Dorjee alone stood firm on his convictions and believed in those who sought change. While many people of his rank and file chose either to ignore the episodes of suppression or remain silent, he preferred to go with the people at this crucial hour. This is very rare in the history of Bhutanese politics.
Consequently, he was arrested, imprisoned, tortured and then released. The years that followed, saw him leave the country of his birth. He began a life in exile where he was hiding in different places in order to escape abduction by the government’s secret agencies. His unexpected arrest in India, the Tihar jail journey and the failed extradition attempts (to Bhutan) only proved that the fear of his abduction was real. In the days that ensued, he spent his time locked up in a cell inside the Tihar jail at a great cost to his political work and activism.
Dorjee’s involvement in this movement is very symbolic and significant. This really was the turning point – as with his involvement – a struggle hitherto regarded by the regime as an ethnic strife; fomented by a class of disgruntled economic immigrants, derived its national character, in a true sense. Dorjee was a prominent citizen who hailed from eastern Bhutan but who also had some deep roots in the central region of Bhutan. He was an established businessman who wined and dined with the country’s top notch businessmen, government personnel and some outside contractors. He was well known among the upper echelons of the society in the capital as well as in other places. His sudden appearance in Nepal and the foundation of the Drunk National Congress (DNC) under his Chairmanship had the government bite its own tongue. Until then, the government was content mudslinging the political parties spearheaded by the southern Bhutanese as an ‘ethnic’ strife led by ‘illegal Nepali immigrants’. Dorjee’s involvement apparently was an answer to all these phony allegations. In short, his involvement alone was instrumental in moving the spectrum of exile politics into a Bhutanese national movement.
Dorjee led the movement during one of the most compelling political struggles in the history of Bhutan. He understood that if he was to play an even game with the regime, a unity among all the political parties in exile was the key. He devoted his efforts building coalitions and forging working relationship with many organizations in exile. The latest and a worthy exercise in this regard was the coalescing of major exile parties – Bhutan Peoples Party, Bhutan National Democratic Party and Bhutanese Movement Steering Committee under his leadership on 26th August, 2010.
The DNC under his leadership successfully organized public protest demonstrations in eastern Bhutan and carried out some sporadic violent activities in the capital. He also figured out early in the game that a resistance movement led from exile needs blessings from outside players, especially India and some western countries. He wrote to different foreign governments, explaining the situation and personally traveled to India to lobby for support; and got arrested.
As much as he committed himself for the movement, he was hated and despised by the regime. A strident coverage in the National Assembly resolutions denounced him as an irresponsible man who has embezzled tones of government money. He was also accused of supporting the ‘anti-national movement’. The extradition attempts made by the government to bring him to Bhutan during his incarceration in Delhi; speaks volumes about the odds the regime was facing, owing to his leadership in the movement.
His personality yet remains quite elusive. He was a complex man and had many inconsistencies and limitations. He lived a very closed life and always kept a distance from the people. If he had many friends, there were his enemies too. His financial sources and dealings occurred under a veil and were never transparent. It ultimately spurred controversies and ruptured within his own party.
I met Rongthong Kuenley Dorjee for the first time at his office- residence in Kathmandu. He used to live in the Chakrapath area on the way to Buddanilakantha. I had never met Dorjee before. I was then a young horse, taking my first steps in politics. Dorjee was already a veteran having already spent some time in prison and suffered brutally at the hands of the regime. Dorjee had recently founded a new political party called the Druk National Congress (DNC). This initiation had sent big tremors up to Jhapa and the then existing political parties namely Bhutan People’s Party (BPP), the Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) and the Bhutan Congress party (BCP) were not quite pleased with this new development. The foundation of DNC provided the people an opportunity to gauge Dorjee publicly. Some welcomed the move; others were skeptical and even suspicious. Some speculators overtly suspected his activities and intentions; others felt he had a cause to fight for. A dark cloud of confusion started hovering among the exiled population and the general masses were left wondering.
Of the three political parties spearheaded by the southerners then, BCP was the youngest. The BCP felt an insult when Rongthong founded a separate political party with the same ‘congress’ name, without any consultation. Its leadership wanted to know why Dorjee could not work with the southerners. Others asked why Dorjee did not keep any southerners in his party. Still others wanted to know whether Dorjee would accept them, if they defected their political parties.
When I reached his residence, I was a load full of questions. Though I was not a designated representative of any party or group, every one who knew of my visit had urged me to put forward a question during this visit. My visit was to seek Dorjee’s views on these matters. His secretary, Chencho received and escorted me to a room where Dorjee was seated on a chair behind a modest table. Three of us Dorjee, Chencho and I sat in the room for about two hours.
Dorjee listened very diligently to all my questions and concerns. When I was done, he spoke in his usual polite tone, but a very firm tone. In his one simple, short reply he summed up all the answers for all my questions. He said, ‘I do not trust the Nepali speaking southern Bhutanese. Your caste system is the inherent cause of disunity amongst you; you guys can never unite. I do not want to mess up myself by jumping into your organizations nor can I accept your inclusion in mine”. That was the reason why he could not join any existing political parties and why he would not accept any one from the south; or for that matter even enter into a coalition. This was a very unusual view, totally unexpected from a person like him. He seemed to believe that a lot of the southerners were actually terrorists and not many of them were actual Bhutanese citizens. He cautioned that if he took any southerners in his party, then he would not receive any support from his well wishers inside Bhutan.
Thereafter, I was rarely in association with him. Only on a few occasions did I meet him again. Those were the occasions when we were either forming coalitions or preparing to launch new strategies as a group.
Rongthong was a conservative; a royalist to the core. He had deep loyalty and respect for the institution of monarchy and the kings. He equally believed, Bhutan’s true identity and heritage rested in the age old Buddhist tradition and culture. He believed ‘reconciliation’ was the only political tool available for fixing Bhutan’s political problem. Ironically, his own erratic, dramatic political escapades seem to over rule this belief. We can see his dilemma. At times he appeared too apologetic and at times he was too belligerent. His party was accused of using violent methods sporadically, to achieve its goals. What ever may be his motive behind using the violent tactics, we can be sure of one thing, he wasn’t using them to knock the regime out. His ultimate goal was to force the government to the negotiation table and begin the reconciliation process. Contrastingly, the regime’s perception of Dorjee himself would be the biggest hurdle, if any negotiation were to take place. Within the parleys of Tashichhodzong, Dorjee was largely seen as a troublemaker, responsible to tarnishing Bhutan’s image in the international arena, especially in the aftermath of his departure from Bhutan. And lastly, the very intellectual and erudite rulers in Thimphu would never accept him as leader qualified enough to lead an opposition.
Rongthong would never strongly advocate for the repatriation of the Bhutanese refugees in the camps in Nepal. He explained that a direct face to face dialogue between the exile forces and the government of Bhutan would open up a road to reconciliation. He believed that the repatriation of Bhutanese refugees was part and parcel of this reconciliation package. He was often misunderstood for taking this position and criticized vehemently by other parties.
Now that he is gone, we can only expect that more will unfold about is works and personality. In the mean time, we can hope that Dorjee’s position will be appropriately filled. Dorjee occupied a very tall and coveted position in DNC. But in as much as the party’s future is concerned, he did not leave behind any successor worth a name. As a political party, DNC revolved around his charisma and personality. He did have a group of subordinates; but not a team of political co-workers. From ‘one man’ to ‘no man’ DNC now is now a green pasture. Chances are that any able contestant may intrude its rank and file. In so far as liability goes, this is the greatest that any teamless political party will need to endure. We shall hope that the DNC supporters are aware of these intricacies; and wish that every thing goes well for DNC.
The best course for DNC is to look for younger generation leaders. Like it or not, but the emergence of younger leaders will greatly mold Rongthong’s DNC. That is the global trend. From Tunisia to Egypt, from Lebanon to Liberia, this generation has fired enough bullets that have deposed dictators, who ruled like immortals. Hopefully, the new DNC will the set the stage for these changes.
The way Rongthong Kuenley Dorjee gave shape and character to the movement deserves our standing ovation and appreciation. Dorjee obviously remains a high figure deserving our respect and admiration. His life and struggle is a source of inspiration for many. It is indeed an honor to have this opportunity to write about his life and struggle.
THE BIGGER CHALLENGE
By Laxmi P Dhakal
Away from the nation
Away from own folks
The attained luxury and ease
Left distance behind
Crossing the roads of promises
And “expectations ” of others
You chose a road
Into a space of rarity
To define equality, rights and justice
A mission ahead
Adorned with a sense of duty
Destiny took less time
To introduce dark cells
The personal being and admirations
Put at stake
And opportunity missed
From the hidden cells
From the darkness
An appeal of purity
That of cause
Though heard by less
Did project a vivid sense of a threat
A path traversed
And adherence to the faith
Now arising beyond the horizon
Far from the eternal sanctuary
The end, brings bigger challenge
MY HEART-FELT CONDOLENCE TO DORJI
By Tej Man Rayakamonger
I, in 1997, was a grade seven student when Rongthong Kuenley Dorji addressed the mass in Beldangi refugee camp. But I missed the event because I had to attend a meeting of the Children Forum. On the way to my hut I heard the people talking of hope for repatriation after having listened to late Dorji. My father, who had an opportunity to meet him in Damak for twice, also later shared me a bit more about him. These created in my mind a Dorji’s picture before I learnt him as the chairman of the conglomeration of the Bhutanese political parties called United Front for Democracy, UFD. With the passage of time and also as my interest for newspapers and journals increased I came to know that late RK Dorji is the man from eastern Bhutan who abandoned personal luxury for the just cause of the fellow countrymen.
As a political figure late Dirji was much known to me but I never had an opportunity to meet him in person. However, as a media person while in Nepal I had a few occasions to write about him and his party Druk National Congress, DNC. I regret that I never met him.
Late RK Dorji never knew any sort of material crisis in his personal life. But he truly realized the real socio-economic conditions of the Bhutanese citizens. So he abandoned his luxury and chose to take penance to achieve Human Rights and Democracy that would give an opportunity to the people of Himalayan nation to freely choose the best between political alternatives.
Before I wrote this note I contacted a man close to him both by family relation and political line who helped me learn more about late Dorji. Kuenley, literally meaning dared by all, received his school education from Kalimpong during British India time in Hindi medium. With well knowledge in Hindi language, Dorji also pursued his higher studies in Buddhist philosophy and achieved Geshey, a level equal to masters’ degree of modern education.
Late Dorji served as an aide of third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. There were two persons with same name and both used to attend when called upon. Therefore, the king added Rongthong, name of the village in Trashigang Dorji hailed from, before Kuenley Dorji, to avoid any confusion between two men with same name. So Kuenley Dorji became Rongthong Kuenley Dorji. Later during the reign of fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuk, he was offered the post of Dzongdah but but he did not accept it. A short time after, he even rejected the post of minister. Rather, as an enterprising personality he flourished to become a successful businessman.
After the Lhotsampas in thousands got ousted the king asked late Dorji to help settle the problems of the south. Dorji risked negotiating with the Lhotsampa dissidents and this act was used as an instrument by the shrewd royalists to dismantle the trust between the king and him. This brought untold misfortune to late Dorji and was put behind the bars for fifty days. During the imprisonment, severe inhuman torture both physically and psychologically was inflicted to him. He also fled the country to join the mass in exile ousted by the regime.
As a scholar of Buddhist philosophy and astrology he had a deep faith in religion and equal respect to all the religions. He has authored a few books on political literature and edited a journal in Dzongkha until he breathed last. He has highly contributed in raising political awareness in the country.
Despite several odds late Dorji lived a respectable life and died an honourable death. I fully believe that the legacy he left shall continue until Bhutan achieves full-fledged and inclusive Democracy.
I express my heart-felt condolence to the bereaved family and pray that may the departed soul join ultimate Truth and achieve Nirvana.
RONGTHONG KUNLEY DIES AT 73
By Rinzin Wangchuk
The founding president of the so-called Druk National Congress based in Nepal, Rongthong Kunley Dorji, 73, passed away at 11pm on October 19 at Manipal institute of medical science in Gangtok, Sikkim, according to an email sent to the Bhutanese media houses by DNC members.
The email stated that a family member had intimated to the party that Rongthong Kunley Dorji had been recently ailing from complications related to chronic diabetes and other health problems.
On October 3, an email letter signed by Rongthong Kunley was addressed to His Majesty, prime minister, council of ministers, members of the parliament and the people of Bhutan. It said that the past 20 years had been a momentous political journey for Bhutan and its people, with the final resultant changes laying a foundation for a promising future for all Bhutanese.
Carrying a tone of regret and reconciliation, the letter also stated that, at a dharmic level – as Buddhists, the suffering one has to endure is a consequence of one’s karma. “Thus, with my body, speech and mind and, as far as my mortal human capacities allow me to, I hereby forgive all those who have wronged me,” the letter stated. “And if I, knowingly or unknowingly, have caused hurt or harm to anybody by my aspirations or actions, seek forgiveness of them.”
“To my country and my people, I pray: may all the gods, goddesses, guardians and protectors, and all those of cosmic lineage, who command coincidence, always guide and protect you; may your negative karma, and your outer, inner and secret obstacles, be pacified and cleared; may your positive karma, and your positive aspirations and actions, consequence glorious merit; may the times ahead bring you good fortune, prosperity, happiness and peace, and may all be auspicious for you,” the letter stated.
At one time a prominent businessman, Rongthong Kunley was arrested by the government on May 18, 1991, based on reliable evidence of his active support to the anti-national movement during the violent demonstrations of 1990.
Although arrested for treason, the fourth Druk Gyalpo had pardoned him on July 5 the same year. In appreciation of the royal pardon, Rongthong Kunley had signed, of his own free will, a genja (agreement) in the presence of the chief justice, the deputy home minister, a member of the Royal Advisory Council, and his own brother, who was then the director of the home ministry, never to indulge in any harmful activity against the Tsawa Sum.
However, Rongthong Kunley left the country and established the Druk National Congress, on June 21, 1995.
Since then, the members of the National Assembly called for the extradition of Rongthong Kunley time and again to face trial for numerous counts of criminal and anti-national activities and attempts to create misunderstanding between the people and the government, communal unrest, and sedition.
In 1997 Rongthong Kunley was arrested in India and remanded in judicial custody at the Tihar jail. Bhutan had requested that he be extradited, in accordance with the Extradition Agreement of 1996 between the two countries, to face charges for financial fraud and default of loans with the government, financial institutions, and private individuals.
He remained in judicial custody until June 12, 1998, when the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in New Delhi released him on bail with the conditions that he is kept under constant supervision.
From Kuensel Daily October 21, 2011
We are very sad to hear the untimely demise of Dasho Rongthong Kuenley Dorjee founding President of Druk National Congress Party.
On behalf of the people of Dagapela and ex members of the national assembly of Bhutan in exile, I would like to express my utmost condolences to the bereaved family of Rongthong Kuenley Dorji. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult this time must be for you and your family. I know Rongthong Kuenly Dorji was a great man. Not only was he a good husband and a father he was a great leader. The Bhutan Democratic movement lost a charismatic leader whose absence will be felt deeply by the freedom loving people of Bhutan.
I have known Rongthong Kuenly personally since a long time ago in Bhutan. I have vivid memories of us in April 17, 1980 in the meeting taken place in Banquet Hall at Thimpu. I also had an opportunity to meet him in Kathmandu, Jhapa, and New Delhi. I can never forget the moments spent with him. His dedication to uplift the country and bring democracy was outstanding. Even though he was a renowned man with such a high position, he never hesitated to help his people. His continuous effort to help the Bhutanese refugee to return back to their homeland was very inspiring. This shows what kind of man he truly was. His mind, heart and body continuously fought for the democracy of Bhutan.
May his soul rest in peace. I strongly hope and pray that if he has rebirth in Bhutan, the fruit of democracy will be sweeter than ever and that Bhutan will be a peaceful place than he had left.
I hope God sends his almighty powers to strengthen your family in times of need.
K.B Chauhan ( Ex-National Assembly Member)
Bhutanese Community in the Netherlands (BCN) is shocked to hear the untimely demise of our great leader and the founder-Chairman of the Druk National Congress (DNC), Rongthong Kunley Dorji.
On behalf of the whole BCN families, I wish to extend our deepest condolences to the bereaved family members and the whole DNC team.
BCN joins the Bhutanese Community in other part of the world in grieving the loss of a man who has spent his life advocating for Human Rights and Democracy in Bhutan. RK Dorji stood as a pillar of our society and his early demise is a great loss to Bhutan and Bhutanese Diaspora.
During this difficult time, BCN would also like to extend our deepest sympathy to his bereaved family. Let his soul rest in peace in heaven.
With Highest Regards,
D. P. Mainali
President, Bhutanese Community in the Netherlands (BCN)
Bhutan National Democratic Party expresses deep sympathy and heartfelt condolences to the members of Druk National Congress and family members of Shri Rongthong Kuenley Dorji, President of Druk National Congress, who died at 11:30 PM on the 19th October, 2011 at Manipal Institute of Medical Science, Gangtok, Sikkim, India.
Sri Rongthong Kuenley Dorji had been a great friend of Bhutan National Democratic Party and we had several opportunities to work together in the movement since the establishment of Druk National Congress in 1994. Sri Rongthong Kuenley Dorji was a kind person dedicated for the establishment of egalitarian political system that would promote and protect the rights of all
ethnic groups in Bhutan under the framework of constitutional monarchy. On his demise the Bhutan democratic movement lost a charismatic leader whose absence will be felt deeply by the freedom loving people of Bhutan both in exile and inside the country.
Bhutan National Democratic Party joins the entire Bhutanese community to pray for the heavenly abode of the departed soul.
D. N. S. Dhakal, Phd
Bhutan National Democratic Party
It is very sad to observe the sudden demise of Dasho Rongthong Kuenley Dorji on October 19, 2011. His passing away is indeed a very heavy loss to Bhutanese Democratic Movement and Nation as a whole . Dasho Dorji’s undaunted commitments and contributions toward the Bhutanese democratic and Human Rights movements is indisputable and irreplaceable. Continuous and tireless efforts for the repatriation of Bhutanese refugees and establishment of inclusive democracy had always been his primary struggle until this death despite having lived with chronic ailment and health related complications.
His courageous and selfless activism to stand against the atrocities of RGoB by becoming the voice of voiceless will always be remembered by Bhutanese People. At this moment of grief , Youth Organization of Bhutan (YOB) on behalf of its members salute the departed soul and pray to rest peace in heaven. YOB extends its deepest condolence to the bereaved families and Druk National Congress (DNC) to share the grief at this difficult hour.
Youth Organization of Bhutan
In memory of Late Rongthong Kuenley Dorji, Founder Chairman, Druk National Congress (DNC), Bhutan
My tribute to late Rongthong Kuenley Dorji, a good father to his children, a good husband to his wife, far sighted guide to his followers, an ideal and charismatic leader to the freedom fighters, a wonderful friend to those in need and an articulate orator to advocate and campaign for a good cause and above all, the selfless, patriotic, committed and compassionate man of determination, who never bothered to show any greed or lust for materialistic life in the society in which he lived. He was spiritual and always taught the juniors to be truthful, sincere, committed and faithful to the service to mankind and helped to fight for the rights of the common and those he saw deprived of their right to justice with much belief in the truth of the law of karma.
At the onset, it will not be out of place to pay my tribute to Late Rongthong Kuenley Dorji and make the following contributions based on my limited experience about him gained from my rare meetings and co-incidental intersections on issues of concern – either related to private sector or his personal interest; all those exchange of views and opinions concerning issues pertaining to the cause of those communities around him, who were mostly victims of discrimination and injustice in their daily lives.
He was born to a couple from a remote region of Kheng under Zhemgang district. His father Dasho Khotsa was closely associated to the high commands of the royal elites during the 2nd and 3rd king of Bhutan. He was probably a fortunate son to have been able to gain vast knowledge and experiences by living attached to his father since childhood and for quite a long time. His father had widely traveled in the country while in the service to the country on palace commands. Obviously, when his father was in Trashigang, he was married to Aum Yeshi and lived at Rongthong in Trashigang. Apparently, he came to be known as Rongthong Kuenley rather than Kheng or Mamung Kuenley.
Recalling the book authored by him in Chhoe-Kad version titled, “Yarngai Garzhung Cherbui Ngotroed”, he had served in the Royal Bhutan Army as a clerk. For a short period though, he had served the country through other channels.
Upon switching over to business he became a popular figure in the east Bhutan. He represented the eastern Bhutanese private sector in the first ever established Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). However, the BCCI entered into dormancy in 1980, and he took the contract of Coal Mining from the government in the east Bhutan. It was the first of its kind taken up by a commoner belonging to the community of eastern region’s private sector. It however failed to pay him off due to rigid government terms, rules and regulations.
That was not the stopping point. He went on to establish a standard hotel at Samdrup Jongkhar, the town, where he had established his business outlet besides other commercial activities such as dealership of iodized salt in the region. By being at Samdrup Jongkhar, he was able to serve to the needs of the people from remote villages as a catalyst and a mediator when they visited the border annually for sale of their goods in the winter market and for the procurement of domestic need from the winter market, popularly known as Mela Bazaar. His selfless nature of service to the needy people had helped to build up effective youth network in the business community. He maintained impartial relationship with key persons in the government as well as growing entrepreneurs and business operators all over Bhutan.
He was a real linguist in terms of communicating fluently with the people of all walks of life. He had the fluency not only in Dzongkha, Tibetan, Hindi and Nepali, but also equally eloquent with clarity in other regional lingua franca making him affluent in everyday life, may it be in the business sectors or on the issues concerning social issues. I had no idea about his educational background from any modern schools. However he was a regular English newspaper reader while keeping himself busy sitting on a simple wooden bench and supervising his construction works during many of my official visits to his region. He had also excellent relationship with the political leaders of the neighboring states of Assam, Meghalaya, Bengal and other major states as far as Bombay and Delhi in India.
Eastern Bhutan is renowned for the production of high quality designs of hand woven textiles with check patterns for men and women wear. It was Rongthong, who established a commercial hand weaving industry at Samdrup Jongkhar, giving opportunities to common women weavers to show their talents that helped them earn for a better living.
He had inherited good personal rapport with Dorji families, in particular with Dasho Rinpochhe (U. Dorji), a pioneer industrialist and leading businessman in the country. He also had close relationship with senior members of the Dorji families of the Senge Company belonging to the families of the present four queen mothers. The former Speaker of National Assembly, Dasho Ugyen Dorji, who is also the Chairman of his Lhaki Group of Industries, was one of his close friends in the palace coteries of the 3rd king. The two eminent synonymic Dasho Ugyen Dorjis, both in the race of industrialization were his close friends, be it in the matters of social or business of their common interests.
He was a man of charming personality. He maintained close relationship with all categories of people, created comfortable environments making it easier for everyone to participate or share their issues of concern in everyday life. He was witty and entertaining as he often shared folklores, phrases and idioms between conversations and over any discussions. Enriched with the knowledge of phrases in life, he was also a knowledgeable scholar in terms of proverbs and sayings that are exclusively based on spiritual and lay life with high values of morals. Perhaps, he was one of the human archives in the collection of rich historical orations. I remember one of my friends sharing with me about the experience he had about one of Rongthong’s confrontations with a Tibetan over a social gathering at a Majong session in Kathmandu. The Tibetan, who had arrived by Bhutan’s Druk Air flight to Kathmandu was heard saying, “The inflight service in the Druk Air is poor” to which he had spontaneously snapped, “It’s Druk Air and not Tibet Air. You could have chosen your Tibet Air for luxury, but when you people have no authority over your own country, you are left with no other choice than to go by what you come across”. The Tibetan gentleman was dumbfounded and stood tight-lipped.
Bhutan is a country of spirituality given the phenomenal aspects of the values of Buddhist preaching and practices prevalent all over the country since time immemorial. A businessman though, he had the time to receive blessings, guidance and initiations from highly revered Nyingmapa spiritual masters like Dodrupchhen Rinpochhe and Dudjom Rinpochhe, who are the supreme masters followed by majority of the eastern population. He also had great concern for the reinstatement of the Zhabdrung’s incarnates and repeatedly acclaimed his ideology of promoting both secularism and separation of spiritualism from the political affairs. He was the man of practicality in terms of preaching spirituality and revered such masters of Buddhist teachings at the highest esteem.
He had special concern for the talented youths of Bhutan and wanted to ensure that every educated youth should receive their share of rights to employment in the rightful field. Similarly, he always wished to ensure that youths in the growing private sector should be given opportunities to serve the country make appropriate use of their entrepreneurial talents. The state’s machinery system often mistook him of being ambitious given his nature of outspoken thoughts that perhaps posed a political threat over the period of time. I recall his proposal to me while my employment in the RICB. He wanted me to join the Coal Mining Company as his Manager and offered double the salary I earned in the position held by me. Before, any decision could be made from my side; the coal mining company was taken over by the state, followed by his timber at Nanglam and the hotel business in Samdrup Jongkhar.
Following his presentation at the mass congregation during the royal visit of the 4th King at Samdrup Jongkhar, he was arrested and taken to Thimphu. According to sources, he was taken for investigation allegedly for supporting anti-national movement, the resentment shown for a political change and establishment of democracy, ignited by the Lhotshampa population in 1990. I did not meet him thereafter. However, one fine day, I was surprised to receive his written invitation to join the United Front for Democracy (UFD-Bhutan) in exile in Nepal in 1997, hence my association once again, however in exile.
The greater political impact created after my association with him, serving the people for democracy under his command, our relationship and the strategic working system with long term plans based on the objectives in line with the ideology of our mutual interest, our unison became an eye sty for the government. The 1998’s change to so-called decentralization, induction of young cabinet ministers from Sharchhokp regions and putting roster to the prime ministerial system were probably our major achievements. Eventually, a solid vacuum emerged in our cordiality and transformed the alliance into the most difficult uphill task. Even the efforts by media circles, elders and the experts failed to mend the crack, which was unfortunate and the vacuity continued for a longer period than expected.
I remember meeting him last in person at a program at New Delhi in April, 2008, where we cherished a brief exchange off-the-cuff on the mutual concern for our health and well-being after a long silence. It was a sorrowful sight of a morally weakened figure from long period of lockup first facing torture in Bhutan, second confinement in Tihar jail and lastly requiring him to give periodical attendance at the nearest police station at New Delhi before his case was finally closed and proved innocent.
To the bereaved family members, particularly Aum Tshering and her two sons, Dechen and her family members, I cannot, but express my heartfelt condolence and wish them to bear with the phenomenal aspects of life, live with strong willpower and live with determination to bear the loss, which is not just for the family members, but a great loss to all the Bhutanese people aspiring for change, repatriation and participation for the growing motherland that is the future destination of every Bhutanese people to build our homes for our future generation. I read a book of quotes from Dhammapada, I would like to quote, “Life is uncertain but death is certain. The law of impermanence lays its cruel hands on all people.” The simple examples are, “All youths end in old age, all health in sickness, all strength in impotence, all beauties in ugliness and all lives in death”. The Kunzang Lamai Zhelung further explains, “Nothing can stop this process. Death follows birth, as night follows day. This process of change is common to all – to the poor and the rich alike, to the young and the old. But this seems to be the very thing some of us forget, living and acting as if we are immortal. If we look closely at life, we can see how it is continually changing and moving between contacts. We will notice how it fluctuates between rise and fall, success and failure, gain and loss, honor and contempt, praise and blame. We see more clearly how our hearts would respond to happiness and sorrow, delight and despair, satisfaction and disappointment, hope and fear”.
Personally, through this humble contribution, I would like to represent my family members and express our hopes and wishes for the wellbeing of his family members.
All the members of the Druk National Congress (Democratic) too share the loss of the founding Chairman of the party and join everyone to express our feeling of solid vacuum sustained by the family in particular.
May the spiritual soul find his way through to the eternal field of Peace and Happiness!
President, DNC (Democratic)
October 22, 2011
Late Dorji’s contributions in retrospection
By Narad Adhikari
To begin, let me recall a famous quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. that says “an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” And so was the case in the life of late RK Dorji, who has left us physically some weeks back.
It was on August 2, 2011, late RK Dorji, along with Mr. Kesang Lhendup and Mr. Karma Duptho came to see me when I was at the IOM transit camp in Kathmandu on my way to the United States. That day, physically, he perhaps looked bright and healthy.
“Narad, I am happy and not disappointed to hear that you are now going to America. There is lot that we can do even from the US or any other countries, where our people are going for resettlement. That’s why I decided to meet you personally. You have worked very hard when I was arrested and imprisoned in Delhi for my release. I cannot forget your valuable work and that’s why I have come here personally to meet and tell you something. You see, I have grown quite old and also I am sick. I don’t think I can go anywhere now. Since you are still young and you have the potentiality of working for the Bhutanese cause, I want you to continue in this mission. Don’t forget Bhutan and don’t forget me, and treat me as your friend. We are always friends, ok.”
This is what Dorji had to say when we met at the IOM transit camp in Kathmandu and perhaps the conversation was most emotional and historical too. Before leaving, he hugged me so tightly, the spiritual warmth of which I cannot forget every single moment.
For me it was the happiest movement as a person of my fatherly age came to bid bye at a time when I was on the way for a long destination. It was almost 12 years we could not meet with each other in person—the reason for which was some ‘ideological differences’. His spontaneous visit to me that day gave me a practical realization that no one remains permanent friend or foe in politics, and one should know compromise. Before leaving from there, he gifted me the national flag of Bhutan along with Khadas and once again reminded me not to forget Bhutan.
In the same evening, I received his phone call again. He told me, “Narad, I talked with my wife in Delhi and informed her about your leaving for the US. She became so sad and started crying, saying that she may not be able to meet you and your wife. Can you please call her and say few words? It could be a big relief.”
When he was in the jail in Delhi, I was with him. His wife Am Tshering, his two sons, his daughter Dechen and son-in-law Sanjive Pradhan lived together as a single family. My wife Dhanmaya joined us later and we remained so close and lived together almost for two years.
After I arrived in the United States, I made a phone call to his residence in Delhi. It was received by Late Dorji. I did not know he was in Delhi. He spoke with a very weak voice that day and said, “Narad, don’t forget what I have told you in Kathmandu, ok. I am not so well and in consultation with the medical doctors. There are lot of things to do but I am not sure how soon I would get well.” This finally became my last conversation with late Dorji. I had very close working relationship with him in the Bhutanese movement for democracy.
It was after the formation of the United Movement for Democracy (UFD), I met with him in Damak, Jhapa in 1996. He was elected as the chairman of the coalition in exile to lead the Bhutanese movement for democracy in Bhutan. I was appointed to represent UFD in New Delhi from the Bhutan National Democratic Party headed by late R. B. Basnet. We had brief but most cordial meeting. I found in him the most influential and charismatic quality of leadership. We decided to work together for the Bhutanese movement.
Next day, he left for Kathmandu and I along with Mr. Ugen Wangchuk, son of Gup Ugen Tshering, the Chief Advisor of DNC-Democratic, and Mr. Tenzin G. Zangpo, who later became the General Secretary of DNC-Democratic, and now imprisoned in Bhutan, left for Delhi for lobbying and campaigning with the Indian national political parties, intellectuals, human rights defenders, civil society members, diplomatic missions and media person seeking support for Bhutanese democratic movement. We were also given the assignment for preparing grounds for the visit of Chairman Dorji in Delhi.
Finally, on April 16, 1997, late Dorji arrived in New Delhi from Kathmandu along with Gup Ugen Tshering. The others in the team were Mr. Durga Giri of Bhutan Peoples Party and Mr. Gopal Ghimirey from AHURA Bhutan. Late Cheku Drukpa and Mr. Taupo joined with us directly from Bhutan, and we were living in a rented flat in Gautam Nagar near All India Institute of Medial Sciences (AIIMS). Lopen Sangye Thinley was with us, who was mess in-charge besides doing daily puja for the welfare and wellbeing for everyone of us in the team.
On April 17, we had number of appointments with different Embassies based in New Delhi. We visited Austrian Embassy, German Embassy and the Netherlands Embassy that day. In the morning of April 18, we had an appointment in the Sweden Embassy. After the meeting we returned to our residence in Gautam Nagar. Launch was ready and we had it quickly and sat for a meeting to evaluate the outcomes of the meetings in different embassies.
It was 3.30pm. A stranger knocked the door of our residence. I opened the door and the person entered into the room without asking for permission. He asked, “Who is RK Dorji”? I pretended by saying that there were no person by such name and neither we know who was RK Dorji. But the person, without disclosing his identity, said spontaneously, “if you don’t tell who RK Dorji is, all of you will be arrested. I will call the person from Bhutanese embassy, who knows every one of you.” The situation became so sombre and there was no chance for us to escape. So, knowing that the situation might take an otherwise turn, late Dorji introduced himself to the stranger, who then said, “you have to go with me, you are under arrest.”
I asked the reasons of the arrest and to produce the arrest warrants, among other legal papers but he threatened us to face the dire consequences if we try to resist. I said, “you cannot take him alone. If you really want to take him, I have to go with him too.” Initially, he refused but when I insisted, he allowed me to accompany him. We were then boarded into a vehicle and taken strait to the Lajpat Nagar-IV Police Station and kept inside a small room. They left us locked into the room but did not asked us anything. Later, I requested for cold water. The police in duty allowed me to go and buy a sealed bottle of cold water. So, in the pretext of buying the cold water, I went out of the police station, and I made several phone calls to different people including the Bhutan Solidarity. Its convener was Mr. Anand Swaroop Verma, who assured me that he will find a lawyer and send to meet Dorji in the police station immediately.
I went back with a bottle of water. I told Late Dorji not to worry. I informed him that I have informed everybody and they have started working for our release. We spent the entire night without food and enough water to drink. In the morning, Mr. Verma sent a lawyer named Mr. Arbinda Ghosh. He came to see us in the police station. He asked what the reason behind the arrest was. But we had no answer for him. Under the provisions of 1949 Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty, any Bhutanese citizen can visit India freely and vis-a-vis for the Indian in Bhutan. So, there was no reason for arrest as we had not violated any law of the land.
In the morning on April 19, he was taken to Lampur Sewa Sadan, which was a beggars home located at the Hariyana border, some 30 kilometres to the north-east of capital New Delhi. They did not take me. The police officer left me to go out of the police station. I informed immediately to Mr. Verma and Advocate Ghosh about the whereabouts of Dorji. They then rushed to the court and file a Habeas Corpus writ petition in Delhi High Court. On 20th it was Sunday. So the Court was off for the day. However, the High Court Chief Justice, scheduled the hearing in his residence at 10am and we got the stay order from the Court, by which any harm for him physically or deportation for him before the final verdict from the court was restricted. It was big relief for all us.
The Central Government of India headed by Mr. H.D. Deve Gowda had resigned and Mr. I. K. Gujral was appointed as the new Prime Minister of India on April 21, 1997. There was big political vendetta going on within the Indian national political parties. On the same day, we got the information that the Home Minister of Bhutan, Mr. Dago Tshering had arrived in New Delhi via Druk Air. We were further told that the aircraft is kept standby at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and the negotiations were underway to hand over late Dorji to Bhutan. That was a big panic. My colleagues in Delhi were nowhere to contact.
I rushed to different head offices of the political parties who had formed the coalition government under the prime minister-ship of Mr. I K Gujral. I met Mr. Sitaram Yechuri of CPI(M), who suggested me to meet CPI leaders as the home minister was from their party and request for the release of late Dorji. I immediately went to the office of the CPI and met Mr. D. Raja, the National Secretary of the Party, who told me, “look Mr. Adhikari, Home Minister Mr. Indrajit Khular is in the parliament and you cannot meet him today. But be assured, there is some democracy in India. Your person will be saved by that democracy. Nevertheless, I can schedule an appointment with the Home Minister for next day morning at 8 am.” He suggested me to meet the Home Minister and apprise him about the problem and seek his help. (Next day, we did meet the Home Minister but he said that no one can go against the judicial verdict while expressing his solidarity against the arrest of Late Dorji.)
I then went to the Nepalese Embassy at Barakhamba Road. It was already 8 pm and to meet anybody was hardly a chance. At the gate of the Embassy, I requested to the security person for the appointment with the Ambassador. He told me to come next day. I insisted for the appointment as the issue was very urgent but he denied. Luckily, the Ambassador was in the garden for his evening walk. As he saw me arguing with the security person, he came closer to the garden and inquired about the problem. When he knew that I was from Bhutan and wanted to talk something urgent on Bhutanese refugee issue, he asked the security man to permit me to meet him. He was Prof Lokraj Baral, the then Nepalese Ambassador to India.
He asked me what the problem was. So, I explained to him about the arrest of late Dorji, who was the chairman of the UFD and had come to India to appeal for Indian support for democracy in Bhutan but got arrested on the behest of the Bhutanese government. I told him that since late Dorji was holding the travel document issued by the government of Nepal, he holds the defacto citizenship of Nepal and hence the government of Nepal could intervene and request the government of India for his deportation to Nepal instead of Bhutan. Ambassador assured me that he would talk to the ministry of foreign affairs in Kathmandu next day and see what the government of Nepal could do on the matter.
Meanwhile, the FRRO (foreigners’ regional registration office) filed the charged sheet against the stay order of the Delhi High Court, in which it was disclosed that Late Dorji was arrested travelling in India without proper travel document. The charged sheet was blatantly against the provisions of 1949 Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty. It took almost two months for the Court to decide anything on it. Fortunately, Home Minister Dago Tshering had to go back empty handed. His plan to take Late Dorji back to Bhutan was foiled.
On May 27, 1997, the governments of Bhutan and India signed an Extradition Treaty, which paved the way for the Government of India to initiate the trials for extraction in the courts. Then the new charged sheet came into force against late Dorji, in which it was stated that the real charges against him were stated as fugitive criminal, who did not pay the government’s loan and embezzled it, who created misunderstandings between the people and the government, who bridged the royal pardon granted to him when he was arrested back in Bhutan and released after five months of imprisonment.
So, after the hearing on May 28, he was sent to the Tihar Central Jail stating that he should be in the jail until the trials were completed. Several court hearings took place in the Chief Metropolitan Magisterial and District Courts. Finally, after a year on June 12, 1998, he was granted bail by the Delhi High Court on the condition that he will not move out of Delhi until the final hearing of his trails, he has to report to the nearest SHO Police Station twice in a week and there shall be strict surveillance against his movement.
On the day of his release, a high level of Bhutanese leaders were present in New Delhi. Prominent among them were Late RK Budathoki – founding president of Bhutan Peoples Party, Dasho Thinley Penjore – the then Acting Chairman of the UFD, Dr. Chabilal Timsina – the then Secretary of BNDP, Gup Ugen Tshering – the then Vice President of DNC and Late Cheku Dukpa – the then Vice President of DNC. So, on June 16, the foundation day of DNC, we had a very important meeting to discuss and decide the future course of action in the entire Bhutanese movement. The meeting decided to carve out the program and launch it immediately so that we could continue the movement for democracy in Bhutan.
After the return of the leaders back to Nepal, late Dorji and I started meeting and lobbying with the Indian leaders, intellectuals, human rights and civil society members, and media persons. We organised several meetings, symposiums and conferences, we reached to conclusion to form the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society (IBFS) to accelerate further the Bhutanese movement with the help of Indian well-wishers and supporters for the Bhutanese struggle for democracy and human rights.
The year 1999 had been a turning point for the Bhutanese movement, as we could materialise the concept of the IBFS formation. The formation of the IBFS was declared on December 17, 1999 under the chairmanship of former Indian Union Minister Mr. Satya Prakash Malviya with Prof. Anand Kumar as its vice chairman and Mr. Surendra Bhadoriya as its secretary. While late Dorji was named as one of the patrons of the IBFS, I was nominated as its treasurer. Under the IBFS, we did lot of campaigning activities including a camp visit program was organised by the Chairman Malviya.
Unfortunately, due to the sharp ideological differences, we could not stay together for too long. In 2001, I have to disassociate from Dorji and joined the Druk National Congress – Democratic, headed by Dasho Thinley Penjore. Almost for ten years, we never meet each other and neither had we talked through any means of communication. So, his spontaneous visit to meet me at the IOM Transit Camp in Kathmandu was really most memorable.
Hence, I am really shocked and sadden by the news of the untimely demise of Late Dorji. I think it is one of the irreparable losses for the Bhutanese struggle for human rights and democracy. He was very influential and charismatic leader, both inside the country and outside. There is still very long way for the Bhutanese people to achieve their common goals and for it if all of us could work collectively by forgetting the past and targeting the future, I am sure it will be the highest tribute to late Dorji.
To conclude, let me once again recall Dorji’s last words to me that say “there is lot that we can do even from the US or any other countries, where our people are going for resettlement.” As he rightly said it, the only way to make our call for democracy in Bhutan heard continuously is to do what we can—no matter where we live.
Let late Dorji’s soul rests in peace in heaven and that we be guided and inspired by his visionary thoughts to achieve our common goal.
Head of Foreign Affairs
My Heartfelt condolence to Mr. R.K.Dorji’s family member. I met Mr. Dorji several times had attended the conference on Bhutanese issues at JNU, Delhi. I salute the spirit of Mr. Dorji’s unwavering stand on democracy and human rights in Bhutan. The Nepal government must stress for the repatriation of refugees. The lingering issues of Bhutanese question owe due to diplomatic failure of Nepalese government.
Sarba Raj Kharka
Mr. Dorji’s contribution towards democracy and human rightsin Bhutan would be remembered by the history. SAAPE periodically holds the meeting on Bhutanese issues in our attempt to contribute in solving the problems.
Dr. D.N S.Dhakal,
Bhutan National Democratic Party
The death of Mr. Dorji is big blow to Bhutanese democratic struggle. Mr. Dorji used to tell me that if Bhutan as a prosper nation were to move ahead, the regime must take all section of society together. At Delhi, He told me that Democracy must come and take deep roots in Bhutan. Bhutan doesn’t belong to few people based at Thimphu. Bhutan belongs to all of us. We know the truth of southern people. Day will come to take your rightful place.
Hiranya Lal Shestra,
I express my heartfelt condolence to the Dorji’sfamily members and party members. The death of Mr. Dorji, the first rank leadership has come to end. The second generation leaderships have heavy responsibility to shoulder. I urge the second generation leadership must be broadminded and must unite to pursue the common goals. The best tribute that people could give to great Mr. Dorji would be to continue his work and materialized his dreams like genuine democracy and human rights in Bhutan.
I regret the attitude of Nepalese Government. The travel document was issued to Mr. Dorji by Nepalese government before he was arrested in India. But the government of Nepal didn’t issue the travel documents to him when he returned to Nepal from India in 2010. The travel journey by buses took heavy toll to his frail body. In January, he survived the near death accident and the effects of accident aggravate his body. The Nepal government must provide travel documents to Bhutanese political leaders. Mr. Dorji revealed his persona that age is not a factor to learn the experiences from other successful contemporaries the case being Mr. Dorji meeting Mr. Prachanda, Maoist Chairman.
President, Bhutan People’s Party
Mr. Dorji’s death is huge loss to the Bhutanese democratic movement. The first generation leadership of three principal political parties has come to end with the death of Mr. Dorji. Mr. R.K.Burathoki, president of Bhutan People’s Party was murdered on 9th September, 2011.Mr. R.B. Basnet, President of Bhutan’s National Democratic Party passed away on 18th August, 2007. The second generation must unite and complete the task initiated by the first generation leadership. Nepal Government must approach the India for tripartite talks to start the repatriation of refugees.