Druk National Congress - Political Organization of Bhutan
Restricted for Private Circulation Only
September - December 2006
Accept Constitution as a Mile Stone
New Delhi, November 25:
R :Mr. Sudhindra Bhadoria, Mr. Satya Prakash Malaviya, Mr. Praful Bidwai, Professor Balraj Kumar at Conference on Bhutan
A conference on “Bhutan's Proposed Constitution, Democracy and Refugees” was held on November 25, 2006, at India International Centre, New Delhi. It was jointly organized by Public Interest Legal Support and Research Centre, Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society and Druk National Congress, and dozens of leaders from India joined to extend their support to the Bhutanese democratic struggle. A ten minutes documentary, directed by Grady Walker, on Bhutanese refugees entitled “Eviction” was screened in afternoon to acquaint participants about refugee life in camps.
Welcoming the guests, President of Druk National Congress Rongthong Kunley Dorji urged distinguished speakers to comments on Draft Constitution, democracy and refugees issues (His speech is reproduced in this edition).
Majority of speakers agreed that Draft Constitution of Bhutan is insufficient and incompatible of achieving fully functional genuine democracy in Bhutan. However, the King has shed considerable power and Bhutanese must grasp this political process to bring out the democratic changes from within. Every Bhutanese democrat must accept Draft Constitution as a milestone and everyone be prepared for 2008, which is not far away. An unconditional dignified repatriation of Bhutanese refugees to their homestead is demanded and in resolving this crisis amicably emphasis is put on the involvement of Government of India.
Prominent Speakers in this conference included Mr. Satya Prakash Malaviya, Former Union Minister and IBFS President, Mr. Praful Bidwai, Senior Journalist, Dr. Anand Kumar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University and vice-President Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society, Mr. Rongthong Kunley Dorji, President of Druk National Congress, Mr. Sudhindra Bhadoria, Mr. Ravi Nair, Executive Director, SAHRDC, Dr. Mahendra Lama, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dr.Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, Prominent Nepalese human rights lawyer and President INHURED International, Dr. D. N. Dhakal, Author and General Secretary, Bhutan National Democratic Party. Mr. Bharia Acharya, High Court lawyer and (PILSARC), Dr. Arun Kumar Singh, scientist and human rights activist, Mr. Anand Swaroop Verma, Dr. Arvind Chaturvedi, Mr. Satya Paul, Secretary General South Asian Fraternity, Professor Balraj Kumar and Mr. S.S. Nehra, Supreme Court Lawyer. Mr. Suresh Pathak, Member of Parliament was also present at the conference.
Excerpts of some of the speakers are being reproduced below.
Praful Bidwai: Bhutan is attempting a transition to some form of Constitutional Government but in a very uncertain, shaky and unsatisfactory way. The residual powers continue to be vested with King, for instance, exclusive quality and privileges in respect to property, to determining citizenship and whole range of powers. It is simply incompatible with the notion of popular government or rule by majority of people.
Due to Bhutan’s seemingly projection as an environment friendly and surreal tourist destination has invited no external pressure from Western countries to do justice. He regrets that even Government of India is silent owing to its parochial outlook in protection of national interest. He feels that neighboring countries, including world at large, must be responsible and should apply pressure on King to deliver justice and end refugees’ crisis.
Dr. D. N. S. Dhakal: During his numerous visits to India since last sixteen years, in pursuit to seek resolution to Bhutanese refugees’ issues, he observed that Government of India is the key to unlock this impasse and open the floodgates of happiness to cheerless refugee face. He also said that Bhutan and India enjoy special relation and Government of India’s investment in hydroelectricity generation is one of the hallmarks of this relation. However, he wants this resource to be shared by every Bhutanese citizen to enable them to lead a very dignified life.
The dramatic changes that unfolded in Nepal recently were largely due to the active role played by India in the negotiated agreement. He therefore urged GOI and people of India to adopt a similar approach in order to make Bhutan regime yield, and extend same help to Bhutanese democrats. He expressed his serious doubt over the refugees leading a happy life in case they are resettled in a third country. In pursuit of seeking practical solution, one is overlooking the state of happiness amongst refugee, which in traditional people is primarily centered in their spiritual values and natural surrounding.
Though the Draft Constitution doesn’t adequately address the dignified return of refugees to their homestead, yet refuges are optimistic. He added that the repatriation is possible because King himself has said that occupants in these camps are Bhutanese citizens. The verification of refugees into four categories must be struck down and if at all categorization is needed, there should be only two categories - Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese. Therefore, Bhutanese refugees must be repatriated before 2008 so that they can participate in the ongoing political processes.
Ravi Nair: He bluntly spoke about the ruthlessness of the Government of India’s protection of national interest. He informed participants that the retreat of Indian army in 1962 Indo-China war didn’t take place from Assam but the eastern Bhutan. This vital strategic interest coupled with internal security threat, after the formation of ULFA, Bodo outlaws and subsequent KLO in 1980s, made India to toe tough line in protection of its trans- North East geopolitical interest. Government of India has never looked at any relation with neighboring countries through democratic prism. Instead it only looked through security perspective.
Contrary to the views of many speakers, he quashed the developments of revolution and birth of radicalism in camps by few hotheads. He warned Bhutanese friends never to underestimate the power of Indian state and keep self-restraint and vigil in floating such politics of ‘terrorism’. In the name of terrorist, Indian security forces will crush 50,000 Bhutanese youth and this action is ostensibly as few so called refugee radicals are already termed as “terrorist’ in many local and national dailies. Therefore, such development should be stopped in its infancy and refugee leaders must discourage such tendencies.
He criticized King of Bhutan in creating halo around its figure by declaring abdication provision in draft constitution. However, keen study of Constitution reflects his true intension as corroborated by article 20-25 detailing procedure like recognition of “willful violations of this constitution”, “three-fourths votes of joint sitting of parliament’ and then subject to simple majority votes cast in National referendum. Not forgetting the fact that 20% appointment of members in National Council and Chief Justice, rests with King, as granted under Constitution.
He criticized the European countries and UNHCR for not exerting enough pressure on King of Bhutan for last many years. The US offer for resettlement must be accepted as great opportunity to escape the bleak future. He extends kudos to Bush administration for bringing out bold and pragmatic solution.
Dr. Mahendra Lama: He traced the genesis of refugee problem and possible solution to crisis in the wake of US resettlement offer. He noted that Citizenship Act of 1985 and 1977 are responsible for generating the refugee crisis. He also pointed out that Nepalese origin Bhutanese have paid a heavy price for ‘open border’ between India and Bhutan.
He added that King has personally accepted the mistakes committed by his government in the implementation of 1958 Citizenship Act. This apparently indicates that King reserves special consideration to genuine Bhutanese citizen of camps. He therefore urged King to exercise his prerogative in granting Citizenship as there has been numerous precedents in past.
He also spoke about the security ramification to India. There is alarming rise of extremists and radicals in camps. He also highlighted that traditional refugee leaders are unable to contain the radical youths. He revealed his participation in one of the meetings and was appalled to find the unmistakable similarity of Nepalese Maoist language used by refugee youths. This is likely to create disturbances in North East.
He told that he is personally in favour of 60% to 40% resettlement in US. 40% repatriation is stressed because he feared the likelihood of another round of eviction from Bhutan and the worst humanitarian crisis will revisit, especially when environment in neighboring Indian states, is soared with anti-Nepalese sentiments.
Satya Prakash Malaviya: He said that presence of more than 100,000 Bhutanese citizens leading the life of exile in UNHCR monitored camps in Nepal points the continuity of human rights abuses in Himalayan Kingdom. His first hand witness to the plight of refugees, courtesy his visit to camps in 2000, yet they are braving it with the hope of returning to their home land with honor and dignity. He, like other speakers, reiterated that resolution of refugee crisis demands tripartite talks (including India), in the wake of failure of 16 rounds of bilateral talks, between Nepal and Bhutan, to resolve the issues so far.
He has grave doubts regarding sincerity of King of Bhutan in ushering true, genuine and vibrant parliamentary democracy in Bhutan, after carefully scrutinizing the Draft Constitution. The inclusion of King in parliament along with National Council and the National Assembly draws parallel to Indian Constitution but unlike Indian Constitution, there is a no provision reining back the King. The vesting of legislative residuary power by Article 2[16(e)] clearly indicates his true intention. Further more, the involvement of Chief Justice in interim government or appointment council completely distorts the basic features of Constitution - Executive, Judiciary and Legislator. The separation of power is basic tenet of a democratic setup wherein the jurisdiction of each organ is sharply defined, sadly the Constitution of Bhutan is lacking in this aspect.
India, the largest democracy in world, must extend helping hand to Bhutanese democrats because Mr. R. K Dorji and his associates seek the full fledge practicing democracy under constitution and do not demand the abolition of monarchy institution in Bhutan.
Sudhindra Bhadoria: While chairing the first session, he reminded that if refugees are not repatriated before democratic election, the election in Bhutan will be severely affected due to de-franchisement of large numbers of potential votes. The democratic forces will not be contained perennially, as the recent developments in Nepal have vividly demonstrated. Therefore, it should be as an eye-opener to both, Indian government and King of Bhutan.
The revolutionary Constitution of world is in making in Nepal and he has no doubt that this Constitution will have profound impact on Bhutanese democrats. He extends his solidarity to Bhutanese aspirations for a genuine democracy and wished that all Bhutanese democrats will be able to participate in 2008 democratic elections.
Anand Swaroop Verma: He said that numerous conference and seminar on Bhutanese issues has been held in India since last sixteen years and he is disappointed to see the continued non-response from Government of India. He recollected the encounter with Mr. I. K Gujaral, the then foreign Minister in 1997, whereby Mr. Gujral told the delegation that stand of Indian Government is shaped by geo-political compulsions and national interests.
L to R : Mr. Satya Prakash Malviya, Dr. Mahendra
Lama, Mr. Ravi Nair & Prof. Balraj Kumar at conference.
He sees no solution to refugee crisis, without the involvement of India, even after the Americanization. The refugees’ crisis is not bilateral issue but indeed tripartite, because Bhutan and Nepal doesn’t share same boundary. He also disclosed the changing mindset of refugees. During his visit to camps in 1995, he saw that majority of refugees holding King responsible for their plight. But in his recent visit to camps, majority of refugees especially youth, comprising 40% of camp population, view India as an obstacle in their solution. After taking stock of ground realties, he warned that anti-India sentiments are brewing thick and fast. He also lamented the blindness of King of Bhutan’s to see the writing on the wall.
In such a situation, the potential of yet another Maoist movement cannot be ruled out. The occupants in camps have just witnessed the success of Maoist movement uprooting the monarchy in Nepal and its impetus upon democratic forces. If this crisis is not addressed immediately, then grave problems are bound to start soon. He warned that Govt. of India should not cite its inability to understand the anti-India sentiments in neighborhood hereafter.
Dr. Arun Kumar Singh: He pointed out that continued silence of Indian government towards Bhutanese refugees issues may be attributed due to its unquestionable enjoyment of Bhutanese water resources and hydro-electric power project. This acquires immense significance in the backdrop of increasing power shortages in India coupled with the strong anti-dam movement throughout India, which has made construction of large dams difficult. On the other hand, Bhutan has the highest land per capita in south Asia and resettlement of dam affected people shouldn’t have any problem. India completed the first power project of 450 MW in Bhutan in 1988, when the refugee crisis came into being. However it was granted to Govt. of India only in 1990, after watching the stand of GOI. Another 1050 MW power project has just been completed by GOI in Bhutan. India has also proposed a generation of 5000 MW in next 10 years in Bhutan. Therefore power generation is a crucial factor in Indian stand on Bhutanese refugees.
Prof. Anand Kumar: He reminded that qualitative change is lurking on the horizon but warned that necessary precaution must be taken as all changes are not positive. He outlined four principles that Bhutanese friends must followed. The first principle is unity in action. Though unity is hard to achieve, but the possibility of unity should never be closed. The second principle is unity in purpose. There can be large confederation with similarity in purpose that Bhutanese need democracy in Bhutan and dignified return of refugees. Third principle is on the careful cultivation of friends’ role. There are many friends and one shouldn’t castigate if some are nor participating regularly. He reminded that emerging leadership in Indian has been massively influenced by money factor, mass factor and media factor. The issue of Bhutan doesn’t create any of these three factors and therefore Bhutanese democrats must engage in cultivating new friends from Assam, Sikkim, Bihar and West Bengal as these people will have more understanding and sensibilities to their cause. He says, “Struggle unites, power divides, therefore, remain focus in your purpose.”
Unlike many speakers, he urged Bhutanese democrats to accept Draft Constitution as a valuable milestone and get prepared for 2008 democratic elections. This action itself indicated that King has accepted that existing laws needed change. Unlike past, now Bhutanese democrats and King, both are playing same game of democracy. He confidently expressed that game of democracy has never been won by monarchs and anti-democratic forces, provided the democratic forces remain united. The solution to Bhutanese issues doesn’t lie in external forces but strength from within. He therefore asked Bhutanese democrats to present a very strong united front to seek the purpose of return of refugees in dignity to their home land and vibrant participatory democracy in Bhutan.
Dr. Gopl Krishna Siwakoti : He accused the blatant denial of the right to return of the Bhutanese refugees as enshrined under various international treaties by the Royal Government of Bhutan. It has curtailed the fundamental right to nationality of its own citizens. This is coupled with the absolute failure to take firm stand by the Government of Nepal resulting in the loss of destiny to resolve the problem.
He found the rising level of frustration, mostly among youths, owing to life becoming more and more difficult to sustain, and lack of any progress in finding a ‘desirable’ solution. One factor is sudden surge of radicalism – contributed by political changes in Nepal (Loktantra/Ganatantra voices beginning to take root) and there is significant increase in the activities of BCP (Bhutan Communist Party) and similar other youth groups and growing possibility of armed insurgency originating from the refugee camps.
One of the factors contributing to lingering refugee crisis is Nepal government’s passing the buck to others for inability in finding a solution. For a long time, it took a view, that the problem is primarily between Royal Govt. of Bhutan and refugees and therefore has nothing to do with Nepal and Nepali people. Consequently, Bhutanese refugees were not in its priority list for several years, and its own internal political turmoil was also a decisive factor in this stand. This has lead to international community to engage in finding durable solution to the protracted problem and increasing the concerns on growing radicalization and outbreak of violence in camps or emanating from the camps. He said, “the international community should use carrot and stick formula to put pressure on Bhutan regarding the settlement of refugee crisis. Refugees deserve the right to return home-unconditionally!!!”
Bhairav Acharya: He presented the legal analysis of draft constitution and found several controversial provisions of the proposed Constitution that require closer examination. Tradition and popular opinion may require the retention of a Wangchuk monarch, adequate care must be taken to ensure that (i) royal privileges are not excessive, and (ii) the King’s continuing hold on governance yields to a more democratic framework.
Prof. Anand Kumar addressing the conference.
(a) Royal Privileges
The King of Bhutan has many privileges that may be employed in his discretion. These relate to, (a) crown property, over which the King has “all rights and privileges including the provision of palaces and residences for official and personal use” [see, Article 2(13)(b)]; (b) economic privileges, including a privy purse and a near-total exemption from taxation [see, Articles 2(13)(a) and 2(13)(c)]; (c) Royal Projects, which are not specified and thereby left to the King’s imagination [see, Article 2(14)(e)]; (d) titular awards and decorations, which the King may confer upon anyone he pleases [see, Article 2(16)(a)]; (e) citizenship and land, both of which the King may grant sans accountability [see, Article 2(16)(b)]; (f) criminal justice, including the grant of amnesty and the commutation of sentences [see, Article 2(16)(c)]; (g) legislative powers to command laws through the legislature free from governmental hindrance [see, Article 2(16)(d)]; (h) residuary powers over all “matters which are not provided under this Constitution or other laws” [see, Article 2(16)(e)]; and, (i) “any other matter as may be commanded by the [King]” [see, Article 2(14)(f)].
While it may be necessary to furnish the King with discretionary privileges, care must be taken to ensure that they are not overbroad and excessive, lest they cloak an unchecked authority with the garb of Constitutionalism. The proposed Constitution will create for Bhutan an elected parliament with the plenary power to make laws. In such a system, any royal privilege must be reasonable and yield to a regime of monitoring and oversight. To this end, it is proposed that the royal privileges be monitored by a Privy Council. However, two out of three members of the Privy Council are the King’s appointees [see, Article 2(14)]. This defeats the purpose of the monitoring exercise. In addition, the royal privileges can also be exercised by a regency where the monarch is not of age [Article 2(7)(a)]. Therefore, measures must be taken to re-examine the royal privileges, in a manner consistent with Bhutanese customs and tradition, and provisions must be introduced into the proposed Constitution to bring the privileges within the oversight of Bhutan’s parliament.
The exercise of proposing a democratic constitution would be incomplete if a system of checks and balances were not worked out to monitor the powers and functioning of the institutions of governance. Bhutan’s proposed Constitution anoints the King with significant powers that will make him an important institution of governance. This is not a problem on the face of it. But, if the King’s powers are too extensive to compel other institutions of governance to yield to his influence, Bhutan will see a crisis of democratic governance or no real democracy at all. There are several areas of the King’s constitutional powers relating to governance that need clarification –
The powers of the monarchy under the above provisions have the potential of stifling genuine democratic sentiments. The King has extensive powers to interfere in the legislative and executive processes and has absolute control over all residuary powers.
16 December 2006, New Delhi
The Druk National Congress welcomed the appointment of Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the 5th Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan on the 14th of December, 2006, as per the kasho of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
Druk National Congress is confident that King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck will spare no efforts in bringing about peace and prosperity in Bhutan that every Bhutanese citizen in every strata of society can enjoy. It felt positive that King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck will work towards maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bhutan, and the conservation of Bhutan’s rich cultural and spiritual heritage, and will usher a democracy in Bhutan that is participative and vibrant.
Mr.R.K Dorji, President of Druk National added, “Our party pledges its full cooperation and support to King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in all his endeavours aimed towards the betterment of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people”.
Unabated Religious Discrimination
By Pema Tenzin*
The Dzongkha edition of the Kuensel dated 10-October, 2006, announced that the Central Monastic Body had expelled the Pema Gatshel Lam Neten, Sonam Tashi and appointed a new Lam Neten, Jampa Sangay, from the Kargyupa sect. It was alleged that the reason for his expulsion was that for last nine years, he was unable to develop the Yongla Gonpa and the Pema Gatshel religiosity. This fabricated allegation is labeled against him to prevent the public from knowing the truth behind his expulsion, which was actually at the insistence of the Crown Price and the King. Shri Lhomon Ngagyur Nyingma (Buddhist Welfare Association) in its press release on 4th October, 2006 has already reported how the Crown Prince became highly agitated after sighting the portrait of H. H. Dodrup Rinpoche, highly revered spiritual leader of the Nyingmapa sect, on the wall of Lama Neten's private bedroom, and proceeded to expel the Lama Neten, a Nyingmapa and a disciple of Dodrup Rinpoche.
The Central Monastic Body’s action has vindicated the suspicion that its establishment has been used as a pawn by the father and son to satisfy their bigoted ego. We have nothing against the Central Monastic Body. Ka-Nying Zhungdrel has been the prevailing faith of the Bhutanese before the 1990s, but the King has constantly played a ‘divide and rule’ policy to subjugate both the Kargyupa and the Nyingmapa followers. At present both establishments have become skeletons of their former self.
Yongla Gonpa history
The Kuensel has falsely reported that Yongla Gonpa was founded by Memphem Tenpa Nyima (1567-1619), father of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651). It was founded by Jigme Kundrel, the disciple of Kunkhen Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798). While in Wangthangla in Ura he pondered on the possibility of whether this place was the site prophesied by Terton Jigme Lingpa. But goddess Dechen Gyelmo appeared and pointed toward Yongla. Having arrived at Yongla, he fulfilled his teacher, Terton Jigme Lingpa’s prophesy and thus established the famous Yongla Monastery. A gap of more than hundreds years between Tenpai Nyima and Jigme Kundrel puts to rest the question of who the founder was.
The Central Monastic Body claimant that Yongla Gonpa is under Tongsa Rabdey, is untrue. After Jigme Kundrel, his successive disciple like Lama Dorji Jamtsho (village Shumar Nagkor), Lama Tharpa Gyeltshen (Village Shumar Kheri Gonpa, and his son lama Sangay Chedup, Lama Jamphel, son of Lama Sangay Chedup and Lama Thonglag took charge of Yongla Gonpa and managed it as per the Nyingmapa tradition. The second King appointed Lama Sangay Wangdi (Village Yurung, Dratshang Tongsa,) and Lama Tshewang Tendzin (Village Mongar Drapung, Dratsang Tongsa) to bring the efficiency in administration of Yongla Gonpa. But, it never interfered in the traditions of Yongla. Decline in Nyingmapa tradition at Yongla Gonpa reached at abysmally low during the stint of Lama Nado (alias Mangdi Lama). Later on Lama Sonam Zangpo took charge of Yongla and he later on appointed Lhatshap Norbu, who stayed in Yongla for six years. After Dodrup Rinpoche’s charge, Lama Sangay was appointed as Yongla Lhatshap from 1983-1996. After 1996, Lama Sonam Tashi took the charge of Yongla and Pema Gatshal until October 2006.
Lama Sonam Zangpa invited Chapji Dojum Rinpoche to gave ‘Namchi Puti ka tho kye’ initiation in 1969. Rinpoche performed Phurpa Namchi Pudi drupchen ceremony and ordered that by holding Phurpa ceremony every year will bring peace, stability and prosperity in Bhutan. Pema Gatshal was previously known as Khedung before Rinpoche awarded present name.
Thereafter, Lama Sonam Zangpo and the people of Dungsam, envisaged that the blessings of highly revered Rinpoches of the Nyingmapa sect was needed to revive the declining Nyingmapa tradition in Yongla Gonpa and Bhutan. So they initially approached Government of Bhutan and King and apprised of H.H Dodrup Rinpoche’s credential as a perfect person because, Rinpoche’s first incarnate was spiritual friend of Jigme Kundrel, the founder of Yongla Gonpa. In 1981, the King and Dodrup Rinpoche met in Thimphu and Rinpoche was assured of Government assistance to revive the Nyingmapa tradition in the eastern region of Bhutan in particular. With rapturous public request and personal assurance of help by His Majesty, H.H.Dodrup Rinpoche arrived in Yongla Gonpa. For the first time, a Nying-thig initiation was given. Prior to Rinpoche’s arrival in Yongla Gonpa, there were hardly few lay monks staying in Monastery. After Rinpche’s charge, more than 150 monks were enrolled and the infrastructures like road, water, sanitation and lodging facilities were developed at Yongla Gonpa and Pema Gatshal Dratshang.
Rinpoche repaired many old monasteries and established Nyingmapa learning centers in Pema Gatshel, Tashigang, Mongar and Samdrup Jongkhar. In spite of the Government’s assistance, the major portion of the financial burden was borne by Rinpoche himself. The Nyingmapa tradition was once more reinstated to its earlier glory.
Brief History of Dodup Rinpoche
The present Dodup Chen Rinpoche is 4th reincarnation in linage and is recognized as an embodiment and reincarnate of Terton Sangay Lingpa and Kunkhen Rizin Jigme Lingpa. His first incarnation, Dodrupchen Rinpoche, Jigme Thinley Ozer is the main-linage holder of Rinzin Jigme Lingpa and teaching of Longchen Nyingthig andspiritual friend of Jigme Kundral. He came to India in 1957 and presently stays in Gangtok, Sikkim.
According to Central Monastic Body and Royal Government of Bhutan, it is alleged that he arrived to Bhutan in his own. This is untrue. He is Tibetan and he has no intention to visit Bhutan for leisure or pleasure.
On the other hand, the people of Bhutan owe high gratitude to his spiritual friend Jigme Kundral. When Present King’s great –grand father Jigme Namgyal,Tongsa Penlop arrived at Yongla Gonpa after his defeat at the hands of British India, he sought help from Yongla lama. After performing the ceremonies instructed by Yongla Lama Jigme Kundral at Yongla Gonpa, Jigme Namgyal was able to inflict the heaviest defeat to British India and restore the respect of Bhutan. This event propelled British India to enter into treaty with Bhutan and sovereignty of Bhutan was guaranteed. Later on, British India was bound to support the institution of monarchy under Wangchuck dynasty.
The King’s Love of Playing the Religious Card Game
In the backdrop of the political problems in Southern Bhutan in the 1990s, Tashi Gang Lam Neten, Sangay Rinchen, Kolilama, Jigme Thinly (the present Home Minister), the Director of the Central Monastic Body, Rinzin Dorji, conspired against Rinpoche and successfully engineered a misunderstanding between the King and Rinpoche. Thereafter, Rinpoche was barred from entering Bhutan in 1993. Save Yongla Gonpa, many Nyingmapa learning centers were either sealed or converted to Kargyupa learning centers.
In 1997, many Nyingmapa practitioners in Eastern Bhutan staged a peaceful demonstration against the Government demanding religious freedom. The Government crackdown was brutal and resulted in the killing of Karma, a lay monk, in cold blood, and the imprisonment of three to four hundred more with prison sentences ranging from 4 to 13 years, for participating in the demonstrations, which is unprecedented in Bhutan’s judicial history. Many of the participants, after their release, are being discriminated against in jobs, health and education. Moreover, their movements are always kept under surveillance.
There were alleged reports of the Government’s hand behind the mysterious death of the 9th reincarnate of the Zhabdrung, Zhabdrung Jigme Ngawang Namgyel, on 5th April, 2003. At present, the 10th reincarnate of the Zhabdrung, Zhabdrung Pema Namgyel, is barely 2 years old, and his parents are being virtually kept in prison in Thimphu by the Government.
Like Father Like Son
The expulsion of Pema Gatshel and Yongla Gonpa Lama Netens by the Crown Prince vividly shows the continuation of his father’s policy. Even in the backdrop of talks on ushering democracy in 2008 under a Constitutional Monarchy, the father and son duo, is in the process of furthering their policy of divide and rule by meddling in religious matters and ethnic issues. We initially thought that with age comes wisdom, and it would hold true for the King, but he is turning out to be as incorrigible as ever.
All the high-flung talk on democracy and fundamentals rights enshrined in the Constitution and the proposed new era of peace, tranquility and prosperity under the coming 5th King is proving to be merely “empty words”, by the Crown Prince’s recent actions. Actually, he personifies the saying “old wine in a new bottle”. The actions of the father and son have hurt the sentiments of more than three to four lakhs Bhutanese people. The little bit of the erstwhile respect harbored by Nyingmapa practitioners is slowly disappearing. After the promulgation of the Constitution and the instituting of an independent Judiciary in Bhutan, we will put the judiciary’s independence through a litmus test by contesting the legality of the Yongla case and the conversion of all Nyingmapa monasteries that have taken place in Bhutan so far.
Our organization is dedicated to uplifting the Nyingmapa tradition, the spiritual belief of the majority of the Bhutanese people, and to ensure that all of Bhutan’s religious faiths remain a profound personal matter of its citizens, away from the politics of administration. We are not demanding or showing dissent on behalf of Dodup Rinpoche, but following our own conscience to demand Nyingmapa traditions’ rights prevailing in democratic system. The Wangchuck dynasty in Bhutan is certainly doomed if the father-son duo doesn’t mend their obscurantist policy. The King is a mere human being, like us, and if he continues to hinder our spiritual path, there will be no room for compromise.
We will continue to demand our religion rights and we expect that all responsible friends of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people will support us in our endeavor.
* * *
Speech delivered by R K Dorji on Nov 25, 2006
Bhutan: Constitution, Democracy and Refugees
R. K. Dorji
Bhutan is at the crossroads of the transition from absolute monarchy to Constitutional monarchy in 2008, coinciding with enthronement of the Crown Prince as the 5th King. My party, the Druk National Congress, has welcomed the release of the Draft Constitution and the announcement of the establishment of democracy in 2008. In keeping with democratic traditions, we have proposed suggestions on the Draft Constitution to the King, which in our opinion, will further the efforts to achieve socio-economic prosperity, and peace as well as protect the sovereignty of Bhutan.
The Druk National Congress welcomes the vesting of the decisions regarding annuities from the State to the King and the members of Royal family, with the Parliament. I am hopeful that all the issues that are not yet addressed in the present Draft Constitution will be given adequate consideration in the new Draft Constitution through article 34.
In spite of all the positive changes taking place, we are less cheerful about the promised outcome, going by the recent events in Bhutan. State interference in religion and victimization of innocent citizens show no signs of abating, giving rise to apprehensions about the earnestness on the part of the King towards genuine democratization.
The provision enshrined in the new Election Act, stipulating that a Member of Parliament must be a graduate, is highly debatable. In the present system of education, a ‘graduate’ is exclusively referred to a western-type qualification that essentially snubs the age-old traditional Bhutanese educational system. This appears a paradox, since government, including Crown Prince, advocates on preserving the rich cultural heritage and promoting Dzongkha as a mandatory medium and Langue França of Bhutan.
Bhutan is what it is now, because of the hard work and sacrifice made by the people of Bhutan in national building. Their contribution was not based on their educational qualifications, but the skills they possessed. In laying down the legal provisions of the election process, the law-makers must recognize that ordinary people have extraordinary potentials in them. The democracy is based upon a representative system, where the electorate is free to elect representatives whom they feel will act in their best interests in the parliament. The only restrictions should be that a representative must be of eligible age and that he or she must not have broken any national laws. This provision is actually an attempt to deny the people an opportunity to participate in elections on the pretext of educational criterion and in fact goes against the very fundamental rights that are in the process of being enshrined in the Constitution of Bhutan. The age, education qualification, and the eligibility of a politician/parliamentarian shouldn’t be subjected to bureaucratic discipline. Even the cap on King’s retirement age should be lifted and if King continues to persist, then it should be according to his own decision and no public force should be exerted.
I am pleased that Article 15(a) prohibits political parties from receiving money or any assistance from foreign source. However, this enthusiasm is diminished by the encouragement of domestic donations. Any form of donation, if not properly monitored, goes hand in hand with corruption. Therefore, domestic donation without proper monitoring mechanisms should be prohibited.
In order to arrest this malady two steps can be taken. First, all the contribution/donation, to political parties in the country, except the membership fees, should be made only through cheques. Second, annual audit of accounts of political parties must be made mandatory.
The provisions for holding the first elections, as stated in Article 19(1), stipulates that “for the purpose of holding the first election, after the adoption of this Constitution, and whenever the National Assembly is dissolved, the Druk Gyalpo shall appoint an interim government to function for a period, which shall not exceed ninety days to enable the Election Commission to hold free and fair elections”. The question is, who or which body will legally adopt and promulgate this Constitution?
The environment to conduct free and fair elections is absent in Bhutan. If Article 19 of the Draft Constitution is implemented, then we demand the inclusion of a Councilor from Sharchopa, Lhotshampas and Naglung communities to assist Chief Justice in the interim Government. Before the run up to the elections, the King must resign from his executive post. Before this, he should, under the present legal system, legislate that all Bhutanese citizens should be guaranteed freedom of speech, expression and fundamental rights as will be enshrined in the Constitution. All laws, inconsistent with democratic practices that are in force, must also be declared null and void. All political prisoners imprisoned during his reign, must be freed unconditionally and be allowed to participate in politics. This is essential to usher a meaningful new democratic era in Bhutan.
During the general elections, we demand the presence of election experts from SAARC member countries, the UN, especially from India, to observe the election proceedings. The international media, including those of SAARC member countries, must be given free access to cover the elections.
Since last 16 years, Bhutanese refugees have been living a listless life. My friends, the refugee tag is like a stigma – a sign of a degraded human being, equivalent to nothing more than an animal. In such gloom and darkness, the US offer to resettle 60,000 Bhutanese refugees is welcome. Though this is not a solution in itself, it can be a respite from the humanitarian perspective. The durable and amicable solutions of the refugee problem would be repatriation to their original homestead with honor and dignity. The Druk National Congress advocates adequate compensation for the repatriated refugees according to UN norms. They should be given equal recognition like any other citizen.
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R.K Dorji meets Maoist Chief
Mr. Rongthong Kunley Dorji, President of Druk National Congress met Comrade Prachanda, Chairman, CPN (Maoist) and Comrade Baburam Bhattarai during a felicitation programme organized by South Asian Forum for People’s Initiative at Mr. Sharad Yadav, JD(U) president’s residence.
Comrade Prachanda expressed solidarity for the South Asian’s democratic movement.
Mr. I.K Gujaral, Former Prime Minister congratulated Comrade Prachanda and exhorted that feudalist Monarchy needs to blend their attitude and action in prevailing changes.
Mr. Mohan Tamang, Mr. Karma Duptho and Norbu Wangdi also exchanged notes in the felicitation program. Mr. V. P. Singh, former Prime Minister, Shanti Bhusan, former Law Minister, Prof Anand Kumar, JNU, Mr. Anand Swoorop Verma, Mr. Sudhindra Bhadoria, Mr. D. P. Triphiti, Mr. Jagadamba Mishra. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Mr. Pradeep Giri and Dr. Tint Swe from Burma were present in the program.
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South Asia Rally Behind Bhutanese Struggle
ISF, New Delhi
R.K Dorji, President of Druk National Congress congratulates the people of Nepal at the Indian Social Forum conference under the theme, “New Nepal-Showing a way”. He was physically not present at the conference due to illness; however his message was read out at conference. Prof Anand Kumar, JNU, chaired the first session. It was attended by senior politicians like Mr. Bamdev Gautam, Mr Preedep Giri, and Youth leader Mr Gagan Thapa from Nepal, Dr. Tint Swe from Burma, Mrs. Sgawtu from Kenya and Mr Karamat Ali, an eminent activist from Pakistan.
Bhutanese delegates, Mr. Mohan Tamang, President, Democratic Youth of Bhutan, Mr. Karma Duptho, Secretary, Druk National Congress and Mr. Norbu Wangdi were present.
Mr. Dorji said, “The transition of power in Nepal has not only set an example to the region, but to – entire world. We are moved by the unity of leadership and grassroot people……unshackling the absolute regime. The valor and wisdom of the people of Nepal shall be remembered in the history for generations to come. We also appreciate the confidence on leadership for bringing the war torn Nepal to a new path of development where, we now hope, people will breathe free and lead peaceful life.”
He further said, “There are many lessons to learn from the Himalayan neighbor across--Nepal, a country with very similar history and geographical set up. Nepal has set up an epoch in democratic movement in present world. It has triggered the beginning of fourth wave of democratization in the region.”
Mr Preedep Giri, senior political leader of Nepal pointed that Indian leader may rise above their interest to help bring democracy in Bhutan.
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State of democracy in South Asia
Bhutanese delegation participated the day long national dialogue on ‘State of democracy in South Asia’ jointly organized by Lokniti, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and Lokayan. Mr. Rajendra Ravi, Mr. Sanjay Kumar and Prof. D.L Sheth initiated the discussion.
Mr. P. L. Gurung, former National Assembly Member, Mr. N. K. Koirala, former Gup, Mr. Ram Chandra Sigdel, Mr. Tara Makarung, President, BGNLF, Bhuwan Gautam, Mohan Tamang and Karma Duptho, Secretary, Druk National Congress participated in the program
Mr. Tamang presented the opinion on behalf of Bhutanese delegation. He opined that limitation of democracy in South Asia is bound to persist as long as whole of south Asia is not democratized. The state of democracy in one country, will inevitable affect the neighbouing countries in modern age of inter-dependence. He also urged Indian delegates to pressurize their government to resolve Bhutanese refugee issue peacefully.
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Satyagraha Centenary Celebration
Mr. R. K Dorji participated in the conference on Satyagraha Centenary Celebration organized by South Asian Forum for People’s Initiative. K P Bhattarai, the Former Prime minister of Nepal was the chief guest at the meeting. The organizer facilitated the South Asian leaders during the auspicious occasion of ongoing Gandhi’s Satyagraha Centenary Celebration. Mr. Sharad Yadav President JD(U), Swami Agni Versh, Prakash Mansingh, Nepalese Congress (Democratic) leaders, Dr. Tint Swe, Burmese parliamentarian and Dr. Farooq Khausaf, senior supreme court lawyer from Pakistan were key speakers of the occasion.
Mr. Dorji added that he is proud that Mahatma Gandhi has put the Buddha’s principal of non-violence into practice and made Satyagraha as one of heritage to uphold and respected.
He expressed that constitutional monarchy is offing in Bhutan but was also apprehensive of genuine democracy taking roots in Bhutan. He expressed his fears by stating that Bhutan may end up witnessing democracy, like the one presently existing in Pakistan, if the Draft Constitution is promulgated in Bhutan.
Delegation from Sri Lanka, Tibet and Bangladesh were also present.