Druk National Congress - Political Organization of Bhutan
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JANUARY- JUNE 2007
DNC Celebrates its Foundation day
The Members of the Druk National Congress in Kathmandu, Nepal and Delhi, India celebrated its 13th Founding Day yesterday with a pledge to continue its struggle for the establishment of democracy in Bhutan. The Druk National Congress was established on 16th June 1994 at Kathmandu, Nepal, to struggle against absolute monarchy for the eventual establishment of democracy in Bhutan. The members of Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society and Bhutan Solidarity participated in the revelry of the Foundation Day. They expressed their solidarity to the Bhutanese democratic cause. Mr. Rajiv Agarwal hosted the dinner party on the behalf of Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society (IBFS). A small booklet, entitled, “Bhutan: On a democratic path?” Published by DNC was jointly released by Shri. Satya Prakash Malaviya, President, Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society, Dr. Sunilam Mishra, President, Bhutan Solidarity, Shri Ramesh Sharma, Secretary, IBFS and Shri Anand Swroop Verma, noted journalist and member of Bhutan Solidarity.
Mr. R.K Dorji, President, DNC, briefed the delegates about the contents of the booklet. He spoke that a fake democracy is making inroads in Bhutan, and the King is trying to make a fool of everyone. The King is determined to make his brother-in-law, Mr. Sangay Nidup the first Prime Minister by bringing in various kinds of stipulation in the existing laws, statutes and procedures.
S.P. Malaviya informed that the recent remark by Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Indian External Affairs Minister, on the Bhutanese refugee issue being an “international issue” shows a significant shift in Indian policy. Dr. Sunil Lam and Shri. Verma reiterated the same view. Both expressed that a united effort from Indian friends is required to step up the pressure on the Government of India in view of this recent positive development.
Mr. Ramesh Sharma, Ghandian and Secretary of Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society expressed his deep concern regarding the recent eruption of violence at Mechi Bridge. He urged all responsible leadership must come together to dissuade the youth from resorting into violence. He feared that the focus on Bhutanese refugee issue would be lost if violent means are adopted.
Respective organizations agreed to chalk out programmes for holding conferences on Bhutanese issues at Delhi before October. Amongst those present were Shri Rajive Agarwal, Shri Vijay Gupta, Shri S.S. Nehra, Prof. LC Sharma, Smt R. Sharma, Smt Renu Gambhir, Shri Shyam Gambhir, Shri Hari Bhatarria, Smt Tshering Lhaden. The Programme was conducted by Shri Karma Duptho of the Druk National Congress.
King’s True Intension
The Druk National Congress is saddened to learn of the recent developments in Bhutan. The excitement and happiness felt during the aftermath of the King’s declaration of the instituting of democracy in Bhutan has now being buried. The Government’s present engagement of drafting the corrupted bureaucratic officials and pro-monarchist into the “democratic setup” would inevitably create instability. Coteries of the King and the privileged family are trying to sell the “King’s type of democratic system” by carrot and stick policy. These parasitic people are apprehensive of loosing their privileges and benefits. They are full of contempt at the possibility of true democracy taking roots in the fabric of the Bhutanese society.
If one were to compare democracy to the human body, the comparative between pro-monarchists and democrats would be like one half of the body complete with all vitals organs while other half is empty even though to a beholder, both exteriors would look identical. The King’s current vision of a democracy system would never last. DNC believes that the integrating of such a "democratic" system in the Bhutanese polity would eventually fail because of its inherent flaws. DNC is shouldering its share of the responsibility for the benefit of country and people by repeatedly submitting constructive suggestions to the Government so that the drawbacks can be addressed when there is time at hand. But the Government seems to be nonchalant and disregardful to any kind of suggestion. The adamant posture by the King is casting doubts on the King’s intent to usher genuine democracy. Moreover, the Government is engaged in drafting corrupt bureaucratic officials and pro-monarchists into the “democratic setup”. This strongly points to the King’s possible plot to engineer instability in the democratic system in future. Some are of the opinion that this whole exercise of ushering faulty democracy in Bhutan could be the King’s conspiracy to reclaim the Government's reins by alleging down the line that the after its initial experiments the democratic institution is a failure.
The RGOB’s continued snubbing of the refugee issue for last seventeen years has left many wondering whether a real resolution could ever be found. Moreover, RGOB’s official stand of classifying a majority of the camps occupants (refugees) as non-Bhutanese throws light on the true intensions of the Thimphu regime. I have so far restricted myself from venturing on this intriguing question of 'refugee identity’ with the hope that bilateral talks would resolve the refugee issue. But, the Government of Bhutan's reluctance to seek a solution has made me think otherwise.
Everyone is aware of fact that Lhotsampas initiated a movement for citizenship rights in the late 1980s against the Government when faced with the citizenship problem. The Government brutality against the citizenship movement resulted in sporadic mass exodus of the Lhotsampa community which eventually led them to Nepal. The United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) awarded refugee status to these hapless and destitute people only after ascertaining and establishing them as ‘Bhutanese citizens’ in need of assistance and protection. However, the possibility of non-Bhutanese presence in camps cannot be overlooked. In spite of these overwhelming facts stacked in favour of the refugees, the Government of Bhutan treats the issue lightly and ignores the suffering of its citizens. Therefore, I call upon the King of Bhutan to come out with valid reasons, as to why they are not Bhutanese citizens in the first place? Otherwise, why delay in their repatriation? Druk National Congress is committed to support the facts and truth associated with the refugee issue. The camp level leaders’ bickering with each other is not helping the issue either. I urge political leaders to rise above petty camps politics and address the more important issues at hand.
Prior to the American proposal to assimilate 60,000 refugees in US, the majority of the refugees patiently waited for the joint verification process to resume, so that they could repatriate back to Bhutan. During this time, there was no record of violence and disputes in the camps, despite the presence of numerous organizations expounding conflicting interests. The aftermath of the US offer has divided the refugee community into pro and against groups. The rivalry and intensity of this divide has been further accelerated with the promotion of local refugee camps leaders by numerous international agencies. Support to various agitating parties regarding the issue by these international agencies is deepening the crisis. Moreover, same groups of refugees are engaged in movement for repatriation as well as the movement for third country resettlement. I have no knowledge of the process of third country resettlement, but for repatriation, the verification between Bhutan and non- Bhutan has become crucial in this backdrop and it is need of hour.
The aftermath of the agitation programme in Mechi Bridge which turned violent, the National Front for Democracy (NFD) is now holding meetings with various government functionaries and international organizations on behalf of the refugee community. They recently held meetings with officials and political parties in Sikkim, West Bengal and Delhi. Even though the NFD's views might be in line with the interests of certain sections of the refugee community, there never was a unanimous mandate for the NFD from the refugee community and it is just their forceful assertion. With equal share of its support base, the Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) is also leading a movement on behalf of the refugee community under the banner “Repatriation and National Reconciliation”. Therefore, it would be unwise on part of international organizations to fully accept any party's version as the view of the entire refugee community. To clear such pitfalls, the Government of Nepal must conduct meetings with various refugee organizations to prepare a core group from amongst the refugees to present a collective view of the refugee opinion. Government of Nepal could even facilitate meetings between Bhutanese exiles and the Government of Bhutan after such consultation.
Back in Bhutan, the King is underestimating the gravity of the refugee issue, if we consider his recent remark in public gatherings. In one of public addresses, he said “the refugees can do nothing against Bhutan as their fate is sealed inside my fist”. Such an immature and arrogant remark would only fuel those effected and those in support to seek out resolutions through means other than those that are non-violence. Such developments would inevitably create instability and disturbances in Bhutan and its surroundings. Being patriots, The Bhutanese or the international community can ill effort to see Bhutan sucked into a whirlpool of crisis. The King’s arrogance seems to stem from his belief that his "excellent" relationship with Government of India will cushion him from all eventualities. Wisdom would say that the people of Bhutan too enjoy the same excellent relationship with India. DNC warns RGOB to give serious thought to this. DNC also believes that the opportune time has come for the Government of India to suggest to the Governments of Nepal and Bhutan to resume bilateral talks immediately to resolve refugee imbroglio amicably.
Election Commission's Double Standards
On 6th June, 2007, the Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan said that political parties, even after formally registering with the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), will not be allowed to campaign until the campaign period is notified. He further said that political parties can only engage in activities such as recruiting party members and collection and mobilization of funds, after formal registration. Violation of this norm would invite legal action from ECB, he said. After assessing the prevailing the ground reality in Bhutan, Druk National Congress is of the firm opinion that the Election Commissioner has double standards up its sleeve.
The People's Democratic Party is yet to formally register with the Election Commission of Bhutan. However, it is no secret to Election Commission that it has forcefully recruited about 4000 party members. Membership fee of Nu.1200/- was collected from each member. In this whole exercise, innocent and ignorant people were threatened and intimidated into becoming its members. The presence of Pelden Druk Zhung (the Government of Bhutan emblem) inscription in their booklet is one of attributes compelling people to submit to its demands.
In the eastern region, PDP has granted a fund of Nu 100,000 and one vehicle each to six people. Under the prevailing situation, other than the government, it is illegal to conduct mass meetings. Yet, the PDP conducted the numerous meetings in different villages without any hassles. Villagers were threatened that anything less then complete support to PDP would invite dire consequences. It has been almost a month since a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) member was caught red handed for making people fill party forms in Lhuentse on mock Election Day, but the ECB had done nothing about it.
On the other hand, the other political parties are barred from engaging in any kind of political activity or campaign by the Election Commission. The Election Commission’s reluctance to take action against PDP despite full knowledge of their unlawful activities, is making many people conclude that the application of laws is biased and different for different parties. Government of Bhutan has so far failed to control Mr. Sangay Nidup's aggressive campaign and breaking of State laws. Is the Government of Bhutan conspiring with Sangay Nidup? Druk National Congress demands that the EC immediately initiate action and book those responsible, under the law. Lack of prompt action would leave an indelible stain on the Election Commission's office and DNC would hold the present incumbents responsible.
Bhutan Solidarity Conference
A conference on the Bhutanese refugee issue was organized at Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi on 31st March, 2007 by Bhutan Solidarity Group. The conference was held under the chairmanship of Dr. Sunilam, MLA and President of Bhutan Solidarity. The conference also hosted leaders of Bhutanese political parties, Mr. R.K Dorji, president, Druk National Congress, Mr. Jagarman Lama, Vice-president, Bhutan’s People’s Party and Dr. DNS Dhakal, General Secretary, Bhutan National Democratic Party.
The speakers pointed out that neglect of Bhutanese refugee issues especially from it closest friend, India, has hurt them more than their already compounded agony. Mr. Anand Swroop Verma reported that there is a drastic change in the attitude of Bhutanese refugees in recent times from his earlier observation in 1990s. Majority of the camps occupants are now blaming the Indian Government for becoming one of their main obstacles in pursuit of their right to return back to Bhutan. Several attempts by refugees to return to Bhutan were repeatedly foiled by the Indian security agencies.
Dr. Sunilam said, “Government of India must either grant route to the Bhutanese refugees to return their homes or hold tripartite talks among Nepal and Bhutan”.
Satya Prakash Malviya remarked that the refugee issue, including impeding political and human rights would be solved if the Indian Government holds tripartite talks.
Mr. R.K. Dorji thanked Bhutan Solidarity for saving him from extradition in 1997. He urged Government of India to exercise its good office in resolving the Bhutanese refugee issue.
He said, “DNC is confident that the Government of India will always extend cooperation and contribute towards the establishment of a genuine and healthy parliamentary democratic system in Bhutan”.
He said politicians must act cautiously and refrain from creating misconceptions so as to prevent further cracks in the fragile embody of refugee community. Dr. DNS Dhakal said that India must realize that there would be many players in Bhutan’s political space, including exiles sometime in the future. If India is serious about the everlasting friendship with Bhutan, then the Government of India must extend help to the refugees.
Mr. Jagarman Lama, said the Government of India must hold tripartite talks with the Governments of Nepal and Bhutan. He informed that failure to find a resolution in spite of the last 16 rounds of bilateral talks between Bhutan and Nepal, itself indicates the inability to solve the issue without the involvement of a third party.
Prominent speakers at the conference included Sarva Shri Swami Agnivesh, Surendra Mohan, ex-MP, Satya Prakash Malaviya, ex-Union Minister and President, Indo-Bhutan Friendship Society, A.K. Chaudhary, President, INSAF, Rakesh Rafia, Yuva Bharati, A. Khote, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Rajendra, Jan Andolan, Ajith M, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Mukta Srivastav, National Alliance of Peoples Movements, Medha Patkar, NBA, Gautam Naulakha, Anand Swroop Verma, Promod Kafley, GRINSO.
Revised Indo-Bhutan Treaty Signed
Bhutan and India updated the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 1949 by signing a new one on 8th February, 2007, in New Delhi. The Crown King, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck signed the treaty with the Indian Foreign Minister, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, in the presence of the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and the Bhutanese Foreign Minister, Lynpo Khandu Wangchuck.
The Crown King said, “from a guiding role upon Bhutan’s first step to modernization we now stand as close friends and equal partners in the global arena.”
Mr. Pranab Mukherjee said, “It is not 1949 any more. Today we want to change even the United Nations Security Council. Our two countries enjoy sovereignty and equality and, in this case, it reflects the excellent relations Bhutan Indian and Bhutan.”
Mr. R.K Dorji, commenting on the issue, said, “The signing of treaty was hasty. It would have been good if the treaty was signed after 2008 by a democratically elected government of Bhutan with the Indian counterparts.” He pointed out that signing of treaty protocol was duly not observed.
The treaty came into effect on March 2, 2007, after the exchanging of instruments of ratification by the two countries in Thimphu, Bhutan.
(Copy of Text)
The Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Kingdom of Bhutan: Reaffirming their respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity; Recalling the historical relations that have existed between our two countries; Recognizing with deep satisfaction the manner in which these relations have evolved and matured over the years into a model of good neighbourly relations; Being fully committed to further strengthening this enduring and mutually beneficial relationship based on genuine goodwill and friendship, shared interests, and close understanding and cooperation;
Desiring to clearly reflect this exemplary relationship as it stands today; And having decided, through mutual consent, to update the 1949 Treaty relating to the promotion of, and fostering the relations of friendship and neighbourliness between India and Bhutan;
Have agreed as follows:
Done at New Delhi on the Eighth Day of February Two Thousand and Seven, in two originals each in Hindi, Dzongkha and English languages, each text being equally authentic. However, in case of difference, the English text shall prevail.
TREATY BETWEEN INDIA AND BHUTAN, 1949
The Government of India on the one part, and His Highness the Druk Gyalpo’s Government on the other part, equally animated by the desires to regulate in a friendly manner and upon a solid and durable basis the states of affairs caused by the termination of the British Government’s authority in India,and to promote and foster the relations of friendship and neighbourliness so necessary for the well-being of their peoples, have resolved to conclude the following Treaty, and have for this purpose, named their representatives, that is to say Sri Harishawar Dayal representing the Government of India, who has full powers to agree to the said Treaty on behalf of the Government of India, and Deb Zimpon Sonam Tobgye Dorji, Yang-Lop Sonam, Chho-Zim Thondup, Rinzim Tandin and Ha Drung Jigmie Palden Dorji, representing the Government of His Highness the Druk Gyalpo, Maharaja of Bhutan, who have full powers to agree to the same on behalf of the government of Bhutan.
Article 1 : There shall be perpetual peace and friendship between the Government of India and the Government of Bhutan.
Article 2: The Government of India undertakes to exercise no interference in the internal administration of Bhutan. On its part the Government of Bhutan agrees to be guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to its external relations.
Aricle 3: In place of the compensation granted to the Government of Bhutan under the article 4 of the Treaty of Sinchula and enhanced by the Treaty of eighth day of Jaunary,1910 and the temporary subsidy of Rupees one Lakh per annum granted in 1942, the Government of India agrees to make an annual payment of rupees five lakhs to the Government of Bhutan. And it is further hereby agreed that the said annual payment shall be made on the tenth day January every year, the first payment being made on the tenth of January, 1950. This payment shall continue so long as this Treaty remains in force and its terms are duly observed.
Article 4: Further to mark the friendship existing and continuing between the said Government, the Government of India shall, within one year from the date of signature of this Treaty return to the Government of Bhutan about thirty-two square miles of territory in the area known as Dewangiri. The Government of India shall appoint a competent officer or officers to mark out the area so returned to the Government of Bhutan.
Article 5: There shall, as heretofore, be free trade and commerce between the territories of the Government of India and of the Government of Bhutan; and the Government of India agrees to grant the Government of Bhutan every facility for the carriage by ,land and water, of its produce through the territory of the Government of India ,including the right to use such forest roads as may be specified by mutual agreement from time to time.
Article 6: The Government of India agrees that the Government of Bhutan shall be free to import with the assistance and approval of the Government of India ,from or through India into Bhutan, whatever arms , ammunitions, machines, warlike material or stores may be required or desired for the strength and welfare of Bhutan, and that this arrangement shall hold good for all time as long the Government of India is satisfied that the intentions of the Government of Bhutan are friendly and that there is no danger to India from such importations. The Government of Bhutan, on the other hand, agrees that there shall be no export of such arms, ammunition, etc.. across the frontiers of Bhutan either by the Government of Bhutan or by private individuals.
Article 7 : The Government of India and the Government of Bhutan agrees that Bhutanese subjects residing in Indian territories shall have equal justice with Indian subjects, and that Indian subjects residing in Bhutan territories shall have equal justice with the subjects of the Government of Bhutan.
(1)The Government of India shall ,on demand being duly made in writing by the Government of Bhutan, take proceeding in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Extradition Act,1930 (of which a copy shall be furnished to the Government of Bhutan),for the surrender of all Bhutanese subjects accused of any of the crimes specified in the first schedule of the said Act who may take refuge in Indian territory.
(2) : The Government of Bhutan shall ,on requisition being duly made by the Government of India, or by any officer authorized by the Government of India in this behalf, surrender any Indian subjects, or subjects of a foreign power, whose extradition may be required in pursuance of any agreement or arrangement made by the Government of India with the said power, accused of any of the crime, specified first schedule of act XV of 1903,who may take refuge in the territory under the Jurisdiction of the Government of Bhutan ,and also any Bhutanese subjects who, after committing any crimes referred to in Indian territory, shall flee into Bhutan, on such evidence of their guilt being produced as shall satisfy the local court of the district in which the offence may have been committed.
Article 9 : Any differences and disputes arising in the application or interpretation of this Treaty shall in first instance be settled by negotiation. If within three months of the start of negotiation no settlement is arrived at, then the matter shall be referred to the arbitration of three arbitrators, who shall be nationals of either India or Bhutan, chosen in the following manner:
The judgment of this Tribunal shall be final and executed without delay by either party.
Aricle 10: This Treaty shall continue in force in perpetuity unless terminated or modified by mutual consent.
Bhutanese Refugees & India - Expectations versus Reality
Dr. Arun Kumar Singh
The vexed problem of Bhutanese refugees has now entered its eighteen year and with each passing year the hope of more than 1 lakh persons, ever returning to their motherland, seems like a distant dream. In all probability, this too is now on its way to become yet another hot spot in South Asia, which already has a long list - Afghanistan, Myanmar, Kashmir, LTTE and others. The time frame of eighteen years is a fairly long period for introspection and analysis, since it is pre-requisite to attain success in future endeavors.
The various facets of this issue at stake are simple. Owing to a long sequel of events, monarchial-cum-administrative-cum-political, more than one lakh Bhutanese, predominantly ethnic Nepalese, were forced to flee Bhutan in 1990. They entered India, where they were forcibly dumped into military trucks and left at India-Nepal border in Jhapa district of Nepal. Since then, India has repeatedly taken a position that it is a bilateral issue between Nepal and Bhutan in which India has no role to play. The hollowness of Indian stand is thoroughly exposed by the ground truth that the two nations, namely Nepal and Bhutan, share no common border and the area where they come closest to each other is separated by a strip of 110 km of Indian land.
Indian Response to Incoming Refugees
Indian stand on Bhutanese refugees is incongruent with its own earlier track record vis-à-vis refugees. It can be corroborated by many cases. For instance, in 1947, lakhs of refugees fleeing from newly carved Pakistan, irrespective of their religion, were immediately granted citizenship by India. In 1951-53, after Tibet was annexed by China, more than 1 lakh fleeing Tibetan were granted ‘refugee’ status by India and continued to do so till date. Every refugee family from Tibet was given minimum of one acre of land for farming, the title of the land and were allowed to preach their religion, culture, faith, practices and other social norms, in line with democratic principles of peaceful co-existence. Today, these Tibetan refugees are very well settled in 127 centers spread throughout India.
The next round of refugees started to trickle in India in 1969, when after the general elections in Pakistan, the National Awami League of the then East Pakistan was denied office, even after getting clear majority, leading to widespread unrest. India became a generous host to one crore Bangladeshi refugees for three long years, 1969-71. Only after Bangladesh came into existence, India ensured the dignified return of these refugees to their motherland. In the case of refugees from East Pakistan, India advocated their cause throughout the world, gained crucial public support, political, financial and otherwise; prior to their return.
India is also host to a few thousand Burmese and Afghani refugees, which continue to enjoy the benefits of being refugees till date. Only Bhutanese refugees have been an aberration in this regard. It is interesting to note that both Burmese and Afghani refugees mostly came to India, post-Bhutanese crisis.
Bhutanese Refugees, India and International Refugee Law
It can be safely summarized that the treatment provided to refugees by India had been largely consistent with the International Convention and Protocol on Refugees and overall a humanitarian approach was followed, barring the exception of Bhutanese refugees. This rigid stand of India on Bhutanese refugees has perplexed many around the globe in general and South Asia in particular and rightly so, as it is in direct violation of various provisions, stipulations and norms enshrined in International law on refugees, and obligation of the nation state in which they first enter after fleeing their motherland. Against all odds, 30,000 Bhutanese refugees are still holed in India, and in the absence of ‘refugees’ status, they are living in abject poverty.
Refugee law is an inseparable part of human rights law, as evident from 14(1) of Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has a right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution, except prosecution genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the principles of United Nations.” As we all are aware that the methods of prosecution change with time as do the concepts of human rights. Thus asylum constitutes leading principle of international refugee law.
Though India has neither signed nor ratified International Convention and Protocol on Refugees (1951) or the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (1966) and subsequent tools, it has done so with regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and hence committed a grave violation in the case of Bhutanese refugees.
Indian viewpoint regarding Bhutanese refugees is erected on three basic premises
In this regard, another development in the field of refugees needs to be looked at. In 1969, “OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa” adopted the following definition of refugee, as provided in the 1951 Protocol, and further added in Article 1.2: “The term refugee shall also apply to every person who owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order, in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave habitual residence in order to seek his place of habitual residence in order to seek refuge in another place outside his country of origin or nationality.”
This African definition of de facto refugee has won widespread acceptance and has been adopted by the UN and UNHCR in their relevant legislation. This exposes the hollowness of first two Indian claims. Regarding the third, Nepal does not share any border with Bhutan, so how can it become a bilateral issue between these two nations? The fact of the matter is that Bhutanese refugees, after coming out of Bhutan, put their foot first on Indian soil, where a hostile administration was already waiting for them to dump in Nepal, in utter disregard ofArticle 14(1) of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This apathy and insensitivity of Indian government over Bhutanese refugees, has resulted to a piquant situation where all the political parties, cutting across their ideological hues, have religiously towed this official line, be it left, right or central. Consequently, many peaceful programmes launched by Bhutanese refugees (like marches, satyagrah, dharna, and public meetings), have been crushed by the concerned authorities with brute force of the state, often coupled with putting refugees behind bars for long periods. Innocent programmes like meeting media persons over tea, meetings with concerned Indian citizens, are not allowed to take place in Siliguri district, neighbouring Bhutan. The message is clear and unambiguous – do whatever you want anywhere in the country, including Delhi, but not in Siliguri. And, in spite of all the public awareness generated by various national and South Asian programmes, backed with media advocacy over this issue in India, the government has not moved even an inch over its stand in the last seventeen years.
Obviously, there is more to Indian stand on Bhutanese refugees, than is officially revealed. Hence it becomes pertinent to analyze various covert and overt perceptions which constitute the basic tenets of India’s official stand on Bhutanese refugees.
Bhutanese Refugees and India’s Strategic Concerns
India’s official stand “Bhutan and Nepal should solve the refugee problem bilaterally” conveys more meaning than it does in plain wordings. There must be some other perceptions in the minds of South Block mandarins, which define the contours of this stand, which, in my opinion, could be understood from the points underlined hereunder.
ONE, India played instrumental role in ushering democracy in Nepal and in the creation of Bangladesh from East Pakistan. This role did not earn applaud to India; instead, anti-India feelings has continued to prevail in the common masses with allegations which may not bear grounds for substantiation with facts and figures. Indian officials feel that India is paying the price of being a big neighbor. Increasingly there is convergence of opinions in Indian masses that it is better to deal with one person or authoritarian regime than multiple interest groups, who, more often than not, toe the line of external forces which not necessarily like to see India strong and prosperous. National interests take front stage in the realm of real politics.
TWO, Energy has become a key indicator in determining the development index of a nation and renewable energy, particularly hydropower, plays a crucial role in it. Over the last three decades, popular anti-dam movements have stalled a series of mega hydro power projects in India. The ever rising demand for power has forced India to explore options outside its geographical boundaries. Cooperation with Nepal and Bhutan is India’s necessity.
India and Nepal had ventured for water resource development since the time of colonial period. India had not compensated adequately for 4000 acres of land submerged in Nepal by the Gorakhpur barrage in 1923. Subsequently, the Kosi and Gandak agreements, which were signed and implemented by independent India, also had not addressed the concerns of Nepalese people. Practically all the bilateral agreements between the two countries have somehow found to creep into controversies and the latest example is the Mahakali Treaty.
Whereas India’s foray in exploiting hydro power from Bhutan has been free from any controversies. India and Bhutan have signed an agreement focusing exclusively on hydropower development. So far India has built some 1400 MW of generation capacity in Bhutan, and it is in the process of adding another 5000 MW. Bhutan’s electricity has started air-conditioning the offices in New Delhi, and it is in the process to expand the electricity supply to other political power and business centers, for example, Calcutta, Bombay and Chennai. In addition, Bhutan has no complaint about the use of stored water, displaced population due to dams in Bhutan, and cares very little about the concerns of other lower riparian countries. As long as the hydroelectricity revenue fills the coffer of the royal government, as long as the king and royal coterie get free hand to use newly acquired wealth from hydropower development, there will be hardly any headache for India from Bhutan. It is India’s compulsion to burry under carpet all humanitarian concerns, including the issue of Bhutanese refugee.
THREE, China has had been a key factor in determining India’s strategic planning particularly from the days of British Raj in India. The British devised forming a ring of friendly states (Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Tibet, and Afghanistan) around India for protection from the imperial power in China. Post independence, it became an outdated and impractical concept, especially in the wake of China’s military might, as evidenced in people’s war (1949) and takeover of Tibet in (1959). Finally, the 1962 India-China war pitted two Asian giants against each other, killing eventually the concept of garland states.
In this backdrop the geographical location of Bhutan, sandwiched between India and China, assumes greater significance. This led to the inclusion of a specific Article in the 1949 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between India and Bhutan, “in matters of foreign relations, Bhutan will be guided by India.” After the Bhutanese refugee crisis, Bhutan has time and again, informed India that China has expressed interest to establish diplomatic enclave in Thimphu. It is clear that such a move by the Bhutanese King was to silence India’s voice in support of human rights and democracy in Bhutan and on the issue of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.
There have been other developments too. Overlooking the provision enshrined in the 1949 Treaty, Bhutan signed a Peace and Friendship Treaty with China in 1998 making the case for resettlement of its boundary dispute. Under this agreed formula, Bhutan will hand over some 10,000 sq km of its territory to China. This has caused heartburn in Indian security establishments as the land to be handed over to China in Bhutan rests at the inverted triangular area at Sikkim-Bhutan-China tri-junction, just above the Chicken’s Neck in Siliguri.
The Chicken’s Neck is strategically very important for India, as it is the only link passage between the mainland and northeastern states. This is to be viewed in conjunction with massive road building activities by the People’s Liberation Army all along the border across the Himalayan Crestline and recent assertion by the Chinese Ambassador based in Delhi claim over Arunachal Pradesh. Only strong Indian opposition has restrained Bhutan from this land transfer. Practically the entire India-China border is under dispute. China has refused to recognize the existence of Mac Mohan Line and both the countries are engaged vigorously in resolving the border dispute.
FOUR, India-Bhutan relation is intertwined with many complex issues which are inherited from the time of colonial period. The theory of buffer sates between China and India has become as thin as a piece of paper, and India is in no mood to compromise its security on humanitarian concerns. On its part, India has done everything to keep Bhutan under its fold, and it considers now economic integration is the appropriate mechanism. It had financed completely 1st, 2nd and 3rd Five Year Plans and it has announced recently over USD 600 million in non-plan grant assistance for Bhutan’s next Five Year Plan. Undoubtedly, the sufferings of Bhutanese refugees have pained all Indians including those in leadership position. But Nepal and the refugee leadership should understand that there are limitations to what India can do. They must be realistic in expectation from India in the realm of complex geo-political environment in the sub-continent.
Regional and Global Factors Compound Bhutanese Refugees Crisis
In order to protect its geopolitical and strategic interests, it was very important for India to keep Bhutan on its side. Taking a cue from USA and former USSR, India has followed the same suit – doling out financial assistance for developmental activities. Obviously the quantum of assistance can never match the similar assistance provided by developed nations, yet it has yielded desired result to a large extent.
India’s Financial Assistance to Bhutan
Serious developmental efforts in Bhutan began in the early 1960s, when India started extending financial assistance. Eight Five-Year Plans of Bhutan have been completed, so far, the first two of which were totally financed by India. Since then, the share of India’s contribution in Bhutan’s five year plans has been shrinking but still remains significant. In the ninth five year plan too, India has committed Rs 2,600 crores, which constitutes 30% of Bhutan’s budget proposed for IX Five Year Plan. The total size of Plan-wise allocations in the budget of Bhutan Government, showing India's contribution therein, is as follows:-
Have these massive financial allocation to Bhutan attained their aims and objectives? Has Bhutan really taken care of wider Indian interests? Further, has this financial assistance been genuinely utilized for the betterment of wider public or has it remained confined only to power elites and used to perpetuate the interests of the Monarchy in Bhutan? And most importantly - has this financial assistance succeeded in eradicating Bhutanese concerns regarding India?
Bhutan’s Concerns about Indian Designs
Though, on surface, India-Bhutan bilateral relations appear to be calm and composed, the underlying strained fabric has come to surface in their dealing with China. Bhutan is willing to handover land to China in order to make a final settlement of its border. Regarding China, it may be recalled here, that in all its border disputes with smaller neighbors, China has always been the beneficiary and acquired land, without giving anything to them in return.
In an era of globalization, the insistence of Bhutanese Monarchy on its cultural and ethnic purity may appear intriguing. But looking at it from Bhutan’s angle may provide cryptic clues of its mindset. Bhutan, at the same time, is very much aware that it can not match the military might of any of its two neighbors, namely India and China. Bhutan has been a moot witness of Tibet’s takeover by China and later Sikkim being annexed by India. In the case of China, sheer military might was used, in utter disregard of international opinion whereas India has been more subtle in its act, which made Bhutan jittery.
Both Sikkim and Bhutan were independent nations when India gained its independence in 1947. India signed special treaties with both these nations, which explicitly state in the official maps of India (till mid-seventies) – Bhutan and Sikkim are related to India under special treaties. The only difference between the two nations was that Bhutan did not allow Indians to settle on its territory whereas Sikkim opened its door. As a result, there was a steady inflow of Indians in Sikkim in next three decades (1947-76), primarily Marwaris and Bengalis from West Bengal. This dramatically changed the demographic equilibrium of Sikkim to the extent that native inhabitant of Sikkim became a minority in their own nation.
In such a situation, the then Prime Minister of India, Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, presented her masterstroke in 1976 (during emergency) by presenting her argument that how Sikkim can be an independent nation, when its population has 55% Indians? Immediately, after this, a bill was tabled in the Parliament under which Sikkim was made a state under Republic of India. Mrs. Gandhi took this calculated step to obfuscate the problems facing at home, as she had already tasted the fruit of success in making Bangladesh independent nation, in the form of electoral rewards (though this move could not save her ouster from office in 1977).
The then King of Bhutan (present king’s father), who was also a blood relative of the then King of Sikkim was nervously watching the rapid influx of Indians sneaking in Sikkim. He anticipated some trouble in near future from this trend. When India approached Bhutan to open a diplomatic mission in Thimphu, the permission was granted only after procuring a written guarantee from India that it will propose Bhutan’s name for making it a member-nation of United Nations. Subsequently, both the sides fulfilled their promises.
Similarly, India also started financing five year plans of both Sikkim and Bhutan, when they started planned development in their countries. Seeing the inherent danger of complete dependence on one nation (India), Bhutan started exploring other source for its developmental activities, after the completion of second five year plan in 1971, despite India’s assured commitment. It explains dwindling share of Indian financial assistance in Bhutan’s development planning. Monarchy in Sikkim, on the other hand, was content in being totally dependent on India, in financial and foreign matters, opening its door in return to these favors and eventually paid a heavy price.
It will be interesting to note here that China has outrightly refused to recognize Sikkim as a part of India, over last four decades and it was just 2 years back that finally China recognized Sikkim as a state under Union of India. During all these four decades, India has repeatedly invoked the principle of prior occupation regarding annexing of Sikkim, as China too has used the same principle to justify annexing of Tibet.
Grand Entry of USA
Post-9/11, security concerns have acquired altogether a different connotation, drastically transforming our earlier notions in this respect. South Asia, on the one hand, is host to half of world’s poor, and on the other hand, part of it is also perceived as breeding provenance of terrorism. In the wake of 9/11, many armed struggle like Maoist Movement (Nepal) and LTTE (Sri Lanka), have been declared as terrorist outfit by the lone superpower of the world. In this context, failure of political-diplomatic efforts in resolving the Bhutanese refugee crisis in last 18 years, buttressed with desperation sinking among refugees, presents a horrifying scenario.
So Uncle Sam has come to the rescue of Bhutanese refugees, as a last resort. It is not a benevolent act on part of USA but merely protecting its interests. It can be easily presumed that any possibility of refugees, joining hands with terrorist activities, will send shock waves across the globe. This possibility does exists, as a whole new Bhutanese generation has come up in the refugee camps, born/grown there and has been watching Maoist Movement from close quarters. So Uncle Sam has offered settling 60,000-80,000 Bhutanese refugees in USA, as mentioned in the official letter sent to Government of Nepal. In order to expedite the process of this migration, Uncle Sam has proposed opening an office in Nepal.
However, opening yet another office in this part of South Asia has wider long-term ramifications and should be a matter of grave concern to two largest nations of Asia, namely China and India. It will be in the best interests of both these nations to employ their own good office to resolve the Bhutanese refugee crisis, otherwise, history of last six decades is replete where intervention of Uncle Sam has only deteriorated the situation further and created more problems than solving, and in contemporary times Iraq and Afghanistan can be cited as examples.
Indian Thrust on Bilateralism
The official view of foreign policy planners in India, almost right from its inception, has been a thrust on dealing regional issues on a bilateral basis. The seeds of Indian thrust on bilateralism can be traced in its relation with Pakistan. This view was firmly entrenched in their mindset after seeing the futility of India approaching United Nations on Kashmir, immediately after independence. Another related issue was sharing of riparian rivers. After a long series of failed negotiations, finally an agreement was brokered with a mediatory role played by World Bank in 1962. Regarding this agreement, the then Prime Minister late Mr. Nehru has expressed on the floor of Parliament that India agreed to take a substantially reduced share of water from these rivers to buy piece with Pakistan. However, after concluding this agreement, Kashmir issue gained prominence in bilateral affairs of the two countries. Top officials of Foreign Ministry, in private conversations, have reiterated time and again, that the moment Kashmir issue is resolved, Pakistan will invent another subject of dispute, since Pakistani military has to justify its existence and large chunk of public exchequer. They cite the case of Sir Creek in this regard. Therefore, the wisdom lies is keeping the bilateral issue pending with Pakistan.
Foreign policy, irrespective of political change in India, has largely remained intact in last six decades. A new dimension to bilateralism was added by former foreign minister and Prime Minister, Mr. Indra Kumar Gujaral, architect of the Gujaral Doctrine. Gujaral said that India, by virtue of being a bigger nation, would try to give as much as possible to its smaller neighbouring countries without expecting reciprocity from them.
The deep roots of bilateralism in Indian mindset can be gauzed from the fact that when SAARC was being conceived in 1980s, the then Indian Prime Minister, late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi outrightly rejected the idea on first hearing. He was apprehensive that it is an attempt of smaller neighbors joining hands against India. Finally, India joined only after explicit insertion of a clause that SAARC will be a forum to discuss regional issues of concerns and no bilateral subjects can be raised. Yet, both Pakistan and Bangladesh, have tried to raise Kashmir and Farakka issues at SAARC forum. Of late, there have been concerted efforts on the part of these countries to remove the restrictions on discussing bilateral issues. India’s insistence that issue of Bhutanese refugees is a bilateral issue between Nepal and Bhutan needs to be viewed in this backdrop.
Bhutan: The Right Approach
In last 18 years, there have been significant changes in the ground situation. Sustained struggle of Bhutanese people have eventually bore fruit as King promised establishing a democratic rule in 2008, based on general elections. A Draft Constitution has also come into existence and subsequently an Election Act, along with legislation on political parties, has also been formulated.
If everything goes strictly as per the Constitution, India may find it a bit difficult to deal with the new ground realities, as till now, it was having close links only with the King. Therefore it is time for India to look beyond the King and forge a cordial relationship with the political parties of Bhutan. This will largely help in maintaining the traditional goodwill India has enjoyed amongst Bhutanese people, in spite of its stand on the Bhutanese refugees. India should also play a more meaningful role in the matter of Bhutanese refugees. The genuine Bhutanese refugees, not willing to relocate to USA or elsewhere, must be given a right to return to their motherland. At this moment, in this regard, King has taken shelter under the argument that process of democratization is underway and return of Bhutanese refugees will a serious impediment in it. India should use its influence on King to positively consider this aspect.
In a nutshell, this is an appropriate time for India to introspect and analyze its foreign policy, in order to impart a corrective notion, if need be, in a continuously churning global scenario. It has already done so in the case of Nepal recently and time is ripe to act on Bhutanese refugees’ crisis. This will help consolidate its position, commensurate with its impressive economic stature. This acquires greater significance today, when India is staking a serious claim to become a permanent member of the Security Council of United Nations, as it will portray India as a responsible nation on the globe in general and in South Asia in particular.
Author, Dr. Arun Kumar Singh, is Founder-Editor of Bhutan Today and former Co-Convener of Bhutan Solidarity]
17 Years of Bhutanese Refugees’ Struggle
Bhutan is one of the closest neighbours of India. This country of almost 9 lakh population is yet governed by autocracy without any constitution. Indian government provides almost 80 percent of the Bhutan's budget for its development. Bhutan is the only country which supports the Indian government in the most critical situations in UN. Bhutan has challenged the international standards of development by its National Happiness Index saying that the development of the citizens must not only be assessed by bread, clothes, house, electricity, roads, schools, hospitals, employment and growth rate rather by the satisfaction level of the citizens to lead a peaceful life. Bhutan's king Jigme Singye Wangchuk has transferred his throne to his son after 34 years of rule.
Bhutan has gone through the second rehearsal of the elections recently. The King realising the wind of democracy and independence throughout the world has announced the elections in the country through democratic process, but the world is aware of the fact that multiparty democracy is not in place in Bhutan. More than seven parties are active in Bhutan, but every party has its base between the Bhutanese refugees who had been dumped in the Jhapa and Morang districts of Nepal by the King with the Indian support 17 years back due to their Nepalese origin. One and a half lakh refugees are living in seven camps in these districts. The world is in a state of dilemma over the king's democratic drama at one side and handing over the powers to his successor on the other. In the electoral rehearsal between 4 colour named parties, 28 percent votes have been casted and the king is campaigning to prove that the Bhutanese citizens are in favour of autocracy rather elections due to which, they are not taking interest in the elections. Pro-democracy activists in Bhutan are of the view that in the situation when the formation of political parties based on different ideologies is banned in Bhutan, the elections in Bhutan will no more be different from the elections of Nepal which were organised by the King of Nepal under the Panchayati Raj system.
Now the King of Bhutan is the 27 years old Oxford educated Jigme Kesar Wangchuk. He is the supreme of the Bhutanese army and he has the powers to appoint his people at the major positions. One of his uncles is the president of the People's Party. Two of the relatives of the King are holding the two major power centres in the country. Surplus energy is the backbone of Bhutan's economy which it sells to India. Bhutan has currently 30,000 MW power in which it utilises 1020 MW power. Almost one lakh Indian workers are employed in Bhutan who get less than Rs. 100 daily wages. According to the official data, 20 percent population of the Bhutan consisted of Nepali speaking Hindus who were evacuated in 1990 due to the ethnic-racial policies of Bhutanisation. They were ordered to lead their life in the Buddhist attire and speak the same language. When they resisted, 60,000 of them were evicted. They were robbed of their citizenship and the King's agents took a hold of their assets. The Bhutanese Government view these people as terrorists and their entry into Bhutan is prohibited. The most striking fact is that the Indian Government which once had opened its territory for the safe passage of Bhutanese refugees into Bhutan is now reluctant to do so.
In the last 17 years, the Governments of Nepal and Bhutan have gone through sixteen rounds of talks but these have not resulted as yet. Bhutanese refugees are of the view that due to the influence of India on Nepal and Bhutan, the refugee problem can not be resolved unless the Indian Government takes any initiative. All the political parties of Nepal including Maoists hold that India should resolve this problem through tripartite talks and Bhutanese refugees feel that they must also be included in these talks.
On May 28th 2007, four political parties working with the Bhutaneese refugees jointly formed the National Front for Democracy in Bhutan and started a peaceful movement for the repatriation under this banner. 15,000 Bhutanese refugees reached Mechi bridge. I, with Samajwadi Party MP Sh. Brijbhushan Tewari reached the Indo-Nepal Border at Pani Tanki (Darjeeling) with our supporters to express solidarity with the movement, but local police and the GOI officials stopped us from going at the venue Mechi bridge. The BSF personnel unnecessarily lathicharged the peaceful procession, teargas and firing continued for many hours due to which a young refugee died. 150 people were injured in the firing. After this firing, A memorandun was also submitted on 1st June. Bhutan solidarity, INSAF and Samajwadi Yuvjan Sabha demanded the inquiry into this incident by a High Court judge, compensation for the injured and the dead and immediately initiate tripartite talks addressed to the Chief Minister of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharji and the Prime Minister simultaneously at more than hundred places. On May 30, political parties of Nepal, police officials of India and Bhutanese refugees mutual talks resulted in the suspension of struggle for the next 15 days. This was for the first time that the representatives of India, Nepal and Bhutan directly negotiated in the Indo-Nepal Border situated camps of BSF in which Nepali Congress, NCP (Maoist), NCP (UML), Nepali Congress (Democratic), Sadbhawana (A), Janmorcha, Sharnarthi Sarokar Samiti, Chairman of the National Front For Democracy Thinley Penjore, Vice-President Balram Podyal, Rana Sampang, Gup Khila, Member Jasoda Woodathoki, Jagir Man Lama, Pema Wangchuk and leader of PFHRB D.P. Kafle participated. From India, I.G. North Bengal, D.I.G. BSF, D.C. and S.P. Darjeeling and A.D.M., BSF commandant including BDO, Khodibari participated in the talks. The negotiations resulted in the unconditional release of the arrested protesters by the Indian Government. Martyr Sherbahadur Shiva's family has not yet been compensated but the Indian Government has given its consent for the treatment of the injured, but it has not honoured the agreement.
As far as the Bhutanese refugees are concerned, the political parties of India show no clear stand. Although Forward Block and CPI are intended to resolve the issue, but the intiatives taken by the Samajwadi Party is not openly supported by the left parties. Perhaps, the main reason behind this is the CPI(M) regime in West Bengal and the communication gap on the part of the political parties working between Bhutanese refugees. Bhutanese refugees often complain of the police inquiries and repression whenever they visit Delhi. In India, Samajwadi Party seems active to resolve the issue. Senior leader and former Union Minister Janeshwar Mishra has written letter to the Prime Minister and the General Secretary of the CPI(M) to hold tripartite talks at the earliest. Members of Parliament Sri Ramjilal Suman, Prof. Uday Pratap and Shri Brijbhushan are convincing the Foreign Affairs Ministry that India must intiate tripartite talks without losing time for the establishment of democracy in Bhutan. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has told Prof. Uday Pratap that this is not a matter of Foreign Ministry rather it relates to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
For the first time, Editor of Teesri Duniya Anand Swaroop Verma invited attention of the country towards the plight of Bhutanese refugees through the organisation named Bhutan Solidarity. Justice Krishna Ayyer is the patron of this organisation. Renowned journalists Vinod Agnihotri, Virendra Sengar, president of the NCP, UP Prof. Ramesh Dixit and Utkarsh Sinha of INSAF visited these refugee camps and jointly prepared two reports with GRINSO. Bhutan Solidarity has organised three seminars in Delhi till date in which renowned socialist leader Surendra Mohan, Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar including Congress MLC from Andhra Pradesh Yadav Reddy and JDU General Secretary Arun Kumar have participated. Former Union Minister Sri Satya Prakash Malviya is active to resolve the refugee problem since last one decade.
This problem has been raised in the parliament in the zero hour by MP Ganesh Singh. He has been answered by the Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee that refugee problem is a bilateral issue between Nepal and Bhutan and the GOI has been repeatedly making appeals to these two governments to resolve this humanitarian crisis as soon as possible.
The fact is that, neither the GOI nor the Indian political parties have ever initiated to resolve this crisis concretely. Whoever tries to resolve this issue is suggested by the Foreign Ministry that the autocracy in Bhutan is in India’s national interest. No one is ready to explain that how the establishment of democracy in Bhutan will negatively affect India’s national interests? The key lies in the geo-political position of Bhutan. Like the Nepalese government, Bhutan also tries to gain confidence of the Indian government by giving threats of the Chinese establishment.
Political parties other than the BJP have contributed a lot in the establishment of democracy in Nepal. BJP seems to stand in favour of the Kings of Nepal and Bhutan. In the last six decades, the commitment shown by the socialists in Nepal towards the establishment of democracy. Similar commitment is shown by the left parties after the maoists gained ground power. But in case of Bhutan, the leftists do not hold a firm foot. Sri George Fernandes, Sri Rabi Ray, Sri Digvijay Singh, Mohan Singh and Prof. Arun Kumar sat on a night long dharna demanding the release of the Bhutanese leader Sri Rongthong Kunley Dorji outside Tihar jail. Similarly, for the release of Teknath Rijal, many programmes were organised under the leadership of Anand Swaroop Verma and Swami Agnivesh. But after the NDA came to power, George Fernandes and Digvijay Singh took no step towards resolution of this problem. This is the reason why many Bhutanese and Nepalese repeatedly ask that if the socialists again come to power in India, will they show the same interest in resolving the Butanese refugee problem?
Conditions have been deteriorating in the Bhutanese refugee camps. Two refugees have been martyred in May in the police firing.A new controversy has risen in the camps due to the US offer. US has offered to intake 60,000 Bhutanese refugees in its territory, but Bhutanese want to go back to their own homeland. Recently, Hari Bengali gave a statement in the Beldangi camp that the youths living in the camps possess weapons and these camps have been turned into terrorist centres. This statement resembles the autocratic statements of Bhutanese king. When the refugees approached Hari Bengali and asked about the weapons and the question that who has its possession, a new controversy was created and firing took place.
US wants to increase its intervention in Nepal and Bhutan by taking the excuse of Bhutanese refugees. US is primarily concerned with the increasing strength of maoists in Nepal. It wants to pressurise India and China by intervening in the matters of Nepal and Bhutan. It is noteworthy that US stood against against the maoists with the Nepalese King till the last moment. Rather US being the supporter of democracy must have stood jointly with India for the establishment of multiparty democracy in Bhutan and the repatriation of Bhutanese refugees by assuring elections. Recently US ambassador has invited political parties of Bhutan to discuss about the problem.
I have visited the refugee camps twice. Last time, it was 10 years back when I visited these camps with a delegation as the vice-president of International Union of Socialist Youth. This time, it was a completely changed scenario when I visited with the delegation of Bhutan Solidarity. Youths in the camps have seen to be losing. They feel that non-violence of last 16 years has not resulted. On the other hand, only 10 years of violent struggle in Nepal resultd in the elimination of autocracy and maoists coming to power. I clearly spoke to the refugees that they will get nothing through violence, but they told me that they are ready to follow the non-violent path for only next one year. We have tried hard to resolve the issue through talks and strengthening the support by organising programmes in India, but it seems as if India and Nepal have both decided to pull off their hands from this responsibility by crushing the Bhutanese refugees movement. This will only strengthen the violent forces at the ground level.
It is imperative for the leaders of Bhutanese refugees to understand that the Indian government cannot compel the King of Bhutan. Democratic struggle in Bhutan is only possible through Bhutanese people. Leaving the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, we can see none of the leaders in Bangladesh and Pakistan are ready to continue the struggle by living in their country itself inviting threat to their lives. Nepal succeeded in its struggle for democracy because its leader were continuing their struggle living inside the country itself and gaining support from the democratic forces outside. Bhutanese leaders must also prepare themselves for facing the challenges and continuing their struggle by their physical presence inside their country.
Recently struggle of Bhutanese refugees have evolved asituation in which foreign minister of Government of India has stated that Bhutanese refugees’ problem is a international issue and India will take initiative to resolve the problem. Definitely it is one step forward.
Now Indian political parties need to pressurise Indian Government to start tripartite talks immediately incuding Bhutanese refugees’s representatives.
*Dr Sunilam is MLA in Madhya Pradesh Assembly and president of Bhutan Solidarity.
Address: N 1/2 MLA Rest House, Bhopal, MP
The Druk National Congress announces that the membership card issued until the year 2001 is now made invalid. The new membership card will be issued in October this year.