Bhutan Peoples' Party
For centuries, all the ethnic groups have lived in perfect communal and religious harmony. There had never been any instances of ethnic conflict, communal or religious clash at the level of the public; and compassion, tolerance, fraternal spirit, co-operation and compromise had been the basic value of the Bhutanese society. But the citizens of Bhutan are suffering for generations from feudal absolutism that has always reigned.
The social structure of Bhutan is clearly demarcated. East is the home of Sharchhokps (Tshangla speaking people), Northwest is dominated by the Ngalongs (Dzongkha speaking people) and the south by the Lhochhampas (Nepali speaking people). The minority groups, which do not have any representation or elsewhere, are totally ignored. Even today there are no civil, political, economic, religious and cultural rights enjoyed by the people. Formation of political parties, associations and organizations are almost banned. Only those belonging to the Royal families, a few fortunate from the higher community enjoy fullest privileges. The Government restricts freedom of speech and the press, restricted freedom of assembly and association. Any attempt by the suppressed groups to assert themselves and move against the absolutism, rampant discrimination and injustice encounters severe resistance.
Till 1950s the Dzongkha speaking in the north and Tshangla speaking people of the east and the Nepali speaking of the south were cut off from each other. The idea behind this, then, was to completely constrict the Nepalese within south alone so that they do not interact with other communities and foster brotherhood. There is no record of even King’s official visit to the south till 1956. Sometimes the representatives of the government used to visit the south that would demand too many things and harass the Mukhtiars (head of the Mondals) and Mondals (head of the Block or Gewog).
In January 1948 a political party the Bhutan State Congress (BSC) was founded under the leadership of Mr. Mahasur Basnet (Chhetri). In very short period it became popular among the southern people. But, in relation to the growing popularity of Mr. Basnet was arrested on February 1952, and was pushed into a leather bag and thrown in the Sunkosh River. Thus the leader of the first political party met inhuman death. This party was re-organized under the leadership of D.B. Gurung. In March 1954, the BSC launched ‘Satyagraha’ at Sarbhang but the cruel government ordered to open fire to dispersed them. Some were arrested while others fled away from the country. Plan to crushed the people’s aspiration the then king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk granted amnesty to selected persons under the Royal Notification issued on 6 August 1969. D.B.Gurung, the President; D.B.Khadka General Secretary and few were returned with the monthly allowances, while around two households activists were compelled to stay in exile forever.
Haunted by the freedom movement that swept the globe in 1980s, resulting in the end of totalitarian systems in Eastern Europe and erstwhile Soviet Union, the development that took place in Sikkim during 1973-75, the Gorkha movement in Darjeeling and the Jana–Andolan in Nepal in 1989-90, the Bhutanese regime systematically designed its policies to stifle the possibility of the democratic movement in future. The first targets were the foreign nationals working mostly in the education department and elsewhere who were overnight demoted and deported in 1987. The other threat perceived was from the southern community, as they comprise of the educated people with greater exposure to India owing to geographical proximity and open Indo-Bhutan border. Hence, the utterly biased, racially discriminatory 1985 Citizenship Act was introduced in 1987-88, which is no less than a prescription for statelessness. This was followed by promulgation of ‘Driglam Namza‘, among other tools of harassment, in 1988-89, which is a traditionally the religious etiquette and stipulations of the monastic order. This has made mandatory to all the citizens. Therefore, citizens, irrespective of their age-old traditions, culture and religion are compelled to follow dress-code of the Drukpa-Kagyugpa, religious culture and adopted as national costume by the ruling dynasty with slight modifications; ‘Gho‘ for men and ‘Kira’ for women and learn to speak Dzongkha and follow the social etiquette of Drukpa Kagyugpa sect of Mahayana Buddhism. In the same year learning of Nepali language was withdrawn from the school syllabus and Dzongkha was made further compulsory and knowledge in Dzongkha became the criteria for appointments of civil servant, granting of loans and other facilities.
The Home Ministry in Bhutan was established in 1968 and the survey of public lands completed by 1972. Each household was allotted land registration numbers and house numbers. Till this period the government did not have any records of its citizens. From 70s together with census the government began the issuance of citizenship cards to every citizen above the age of 16, which completed in around 1982. This census operation showed higher percentage of Nepali speaking population among the other communities, which ignited furore, and to check and balance the growth of the southern population, 1985 Citizenship Act came into being. History is evident enough that unlike other communities, the Nepali community has always been the most sincere subjects abiding the law of the land as long as their cultural identity, religion, language and traditions were protected by the state. In 1988 the government implemented 1985 Citizenship Act demanding that only those who can produce the evidences of their being in the country on or before 1958 would be deemed to be bona fide citizens of the country.
Citizens in the south usually selected their spouses outside Bhutan because of the rough terrain and inadequate infra-structural development within the country, thereby hindering travel of these people. To curtail this trend, the Marriage Act was introduced in 1980. As per this Act, a Bhutanese who marries a foreigner would be denied promotions if he/she is a government servant and would be denied economic and educational assistance. To further complicate the situation and to compel the southern Bhutanese of Nepali origin to leave the country “One nation One People” and “Green Belt Policy” was also introduced along the southern frontiers. Besides the intents of cultural assimilation, this was to weed out the ethnic Nepali. More protective but discriminatory measures were enacted in a rush. When these policies were implemented, thousands of southern Bhutanese suddenly became illegal immigrants. In 80s the government introduced a new term‘Lhotshampas‘ for the ethnic Nepali people of the south. These communities which in literal term denotes all the people living in south Bhutan and does not protect the language, ethnicity and customs, who have for generations been defending the frontiers and contributing to the socio-economic development of the country. It is a sinister ploy to underplay the ethnic consciousness people and gradually exterminate their ethnic identity. Government efforts to institute policies designed to preserve the cultural dominance of the Ngalong ethnic group; to change citizenship requirements, and to control illegal immigration resulted in political protests, ethnic conflict, and repression of ethnic Nepalese in the southern districts during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since 1998 the Government began resettling Buddhist Bhutanese from other regions of the country on land in southern districts forcefully vacated by the ethnic Hindu Nepalese living in refugee camps in Nepal, which is likely to complicate any future return their home. Cultural diversity is proven to enrich a nation. “One nation One People” was blatantly enforced upon multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities. With its implementation, cultural pluralism in Bhutan as banned and the language, dress and culture of the western Bhutanese ruling elite was made mandatory and imposed on all the citizens.
The Bhutanese people have supported the 13 point demand of BPP through Peaceful demonstration in 1990. The Royal Government has legalized the State sponsored terrorism by virtue of the Laws and Acts enacted in favor of the king and his government. The law of Bhutan says that any person expressing their aspiration that would deny the loyalty to the king and opposes the prevailing laws and acts would be termed so called “Anti-national”, “Traitor”, “Terrorist” and so on to malign the fame of the persons and the organizations, which do not help to strengthen the autocratic regime of the king. The Government has not missed the opportunity to use the state sponsored terrorism by killing people and publishing booklets and magazines with their photographs to terrorize the general public putting the blame on Bhutan Peoples’ Party to submerge the genuine demand of the patriotic citizens of Bhutan.
Since the inception of the Hereditary Monarchy, the Bhutanese people either they be Sharchhops, Nglongs, Kurtekpas, Khengpas, Doyas, Brokpas and Lhotshampas (Nepali speaking people) have given tremendous love & affection to their Kings making them “People’s Kings”. Each community has contributed significantly in defending, protecting and developing Bhutan. Bhutanese people are patriotic, innocent, disciplined and dedicated to the Nation. But, most importantly and relevantly, the previous government has stepped too rigorously in the cultural, civil, political and economic aspects of the people. What crime had the citizens committed in voicing against the arbitrary policies of the government and demanding a change for the largest interest of the people. As a universally accepted principle, the values of democracy are to ensure and safeguard equal rights, freedom and justice to the people of all section of society and individuals. It is also to ensure peace and development in a country, where every citizen have the defined role and responsibility to play in the nation building task.
The Government must accept that the land in the southern districts were basically unwanted for settlement by those from the northern Bhutanese fearing wild animals and malaria in the past. It was these Lhotshampas who boldly initiated settlement and turned fertile after years of their occupation. Surrender of the Eighteen Duars to the British India supports the fact that the southern territories were vulnerable until occupation by the Lhotshampas, therefore, unless our brethren are resettled in the government vacant lands, there does not see any justice being done to the Lhotshampas.
The Bhutanese citizens in exile are the offshoot of the political crisis that ignited following the forceful implementation of the “One Nation, One People” policy on a heterogeneous mass which is a miscalculated political misadventure. With the people living under suppressive rule neither the state of internal affairs is congenial nor the friendship and co-operation with our age-old neighbors exist as before. With over one hundred thousand Bhutanese Citizens living as refugees, and their landed properties issued against their wills to other communities, when the world is preparing to grasp greater opportunities from the new millennium going beyond frontiers, we are unfortunately getting isolated from the rest of the world as we are sowing the seeds of ethnic conflict and creating our own pit holes.
Bhutan Before 1991
Bhutan After 1991