Bhutan Peoples' Party
While the clandestine business of the Royal Government of Bhutan was going on to harass the people aims of uprooting the existence of conscious, the politically conscious citizens realized that in the absence of democratic political system, the ethnic minorities will not be protected from the despotic and racist regime founded on medieval laws of governance. Those who were out the country were already contemplating a strong political organization to educate and organize the people along the democratic path. This was felt urgent in view of systematic repression of voices by the anarchist regime, which was bent on silencing any protest so that the agenda of depopulating the southern Bhutanese of Nepali origin would find smooth sail, far away from the knowledge of international community.
The implementation of various policies of the government played with the sentiments of the people and deprived the diverse community of their right to nationality, culture, language, people became discontented and frustrated. Particularly, those in the southern districts were affected intolerably. After the arrest of the many citizens a leader embraced the responsibility of not only fighting for human rights but to gradually take the country out of medieval system by replacing it with a just system akin to western democratic pattern. This was definitely a daunting task for the new leaders in a country having very low literacy rate with practically no political consciousness other than serving meekly the powerful elites.
At the beginning Bhutanese people aspiring for political changes organised themselves into Bhutan Peoples’ Party (BPP) on June 2, 1990 with the dynamic leadership of Mr. R.K.Budathoki as the founding president. This was the logical culmination of various events necessitated by compelling circumstances, and was purely an indigenous outcome. Upon formation of party, the Central Committee unanimously declared that the policies and goal of the party would be to start the long process of changing the system of governance through advocacy and concerted struggle by mobilizing masses both within and outside country. Its objectives were to establish a democratic political system with constitutional monarchy, guaranteeing equal rights, social justice with Rule of law for all ethnic communities as against the present biased and discriminatory system.
The formation of the Bhutan Peoples’ Party was the turning point in the political history of Bhutan. Unlike the previous experience the party for the first time succeeded in exposing internal realities of Bhutan to the outside world and garnered wide support to the movement. The BPP, in support of the Bhutanese people spearheaded mass demonstrations, protests and civil disobedience movement within the country demanding political reform. The main demands of the Party were a thirteen-point Demand Charter that the government was supposed to address immediately for durable solution of all social, economic and political turmoil.
The mass movement lunched by BPP under the leadership of late Mr. R.K. Budathoki is a remarkable episode of the Bhutanese democratic movement. Having been welcomed and received the whole–hearted supported and promising participation of the different communities, the party had declared for organized a ‘peaceful rally’ (procession) at Phuentsholing, the gateway of Bhutan on August 26, 1990. The public, which was tired of tyranny rule uncertainly made their way for place via India to participate in the declared rally. But the Government of India intercepted the move of the peace procession of the Bhutanese people. The party then organized and declared the date of commencement of Dharna (sit-in) programme. The large mass of public observed a sit-in in front of the Dungpas (Sub-divisional officers) and Dzongdas (District officers) on 19 September 1990 and this was continued until October 4, 1990.
As people thronged the streets demanding democracy and human rights, the Bhutan Government pounced back with utmost terror on the peaceful activists and supporters of the movement and branded them as anti-nationals, traitors and agents of Greater Nepal etc, despotic government deploy the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) to quash the movement. Being given Carte blanche, the RBA had a field day. The consequences were appalling, arbitrary arrests, torture, rape, intimidation, harassment, arson, loot, demolition of houses and confiscation of citizenship cards by the RBA. The Government also imposed economic sanction in southern districts depriving the people of their basic day-to-day necessities. The military occupation in the south was brutal. Every day brought scenes of horror, from burning homes to the gang rape of women and young girls by military personnel which, in some documented accounts, husband, siblings and parents were forced to watch. In such a climate, all men and youths fled into the jungles out of persecution, living without sufficient food. Others who could not flee died inside the prisons from torture, and many of the “disappeared” ones remain unaccounted for. The government warned other ethnic groups that they would face similar treatment if they defy government policies. Continued repression and army rule, compelled the people to flee from the country seeking refugee status in neighbouring states of India. In Garganda and in the other Bhutan Peoples’ Party managed camps, refugees were contained for some months but when the Indian authorities also began loading these innocent people into trucks and reaching them up to Indo-Nepal border ( Panitanki), the BPP could not continue its activities.
Following the escalation of government’s repression and mounting threat of persecution, thousands of southern Bhutanese compelled for fled into India. The Bhutanese government then began implementing ever stringently the ethnic cleansing policies to depopulate southern Bhutan. During the 70th session of the National Assembly in 1991, the government resolved to evict anyone involved in the BPP’s peaceful demonstrations or anyone related to the supporters of the democratic movement. Thus, legitimizing eviction, the regime introduced the “Voluntary Migration Forms” (VMF) and began to systematically evict its citizens. Putting this plan of action, the government rounded up prominent citizens into schools, which were turned as detention cum torture centres and coerced them to leave the country. They were subjected to extreme inhuman torture until they succumbed to signing the so-called VMF. Once the prominent citizens were dealt inhumanly, the general population fell an easy prey to this sinister design of the government. Today, the majority of the Bhutanese, livings in exile as refugees are the ones who have been forced to sign the VMF either under duress or under torture and forced to exile.
In reality, nothing has been changed in Bhutan in spite of having established democracy and the success of the (so-called) general elections. For example, the Election Commission has adopted the path of discrimination against minority, specially hundred thousand Bhutanese citizens (living in exile as refugee) are excluded from the process of democratisation and other related political processes. They are not included in the voters’ list and not allowed to participate in the election exercises. Even the political parties in exile are not allowed to register. There are also discrimination between different sects of Buddhism and other religions. The only beneficiaries of the changes in Bhutan are the small elite class, who are able to manipulate the democratic institutions for their whims and fancies.
The deteriorating political situation in Bhutan has demanded for consolidation of all the Bhutanese political parties into a united platform to address national political concern. The fifteen years of political struggle only projected inexperience and immaturity of the democracy aspirers that caused to disorganization of the political parties and politically committed and patriotic citizens. The negative component contributed to cause major setback in the movement that projected pessimistic stance of the performers.
Prevalence of diverse modalities in bringing about an appropriate shape to the Bhutanese political movement caused to a decade long period of struggle and confronted with multifarious hurdles that cost the movement with martyrs like late R.K. Budathoki, the pioneer in the 20th century Bhutanese political struggle. Our struggle in the past have paved way through the political institutions like the Bhutanese Coalition for Democratic Rights, Bhutanese Coalition for Democratic Movement, Appeal Movement Coordinating Council, Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee and the United Front for Democracy.
Bhutan Peoples’ Party as pioneer political party organized a four days Interaction Program on 26 November 2002, to give priority to build consensus among political parties in exile to create a single voice to adhere solution to the present confusion and turmoil. After numerous deliberation, in keeping with the understanding between Bhutan Peoples’ Party and Druk National Congress (Democratic), decided to proclaim publicly of the launching of the National Front for Democracy-Bhutan (NFD-Bhutan) on the February 16, 2003. One year later after the Bhutan Gorkha National Liberation Front formed in exile offered to join the front realizing the needs of entity of the political parties. It is anticipated that the political parties if any remaining outside NFD-Bhutan will pave their way through into the NFD-Bhutan’s foyer in the larger interest of the Bhutanese people, sovereignty and national integrity. NFD-Bhutan was chaired by DNC-D for the first two tenure, at present BPP is in the chair.
The Bhutanese refugee issue is an upshot of the political crisis. Therefore, the political change in Bhutan is must. The Tsa-wa-sum is the governing principles of the RGOB needs to made Tsa-wa-ztsi adding ‘peoples’ to the consisting king, country and the government. The BPP made several sincere efforts towards repatriation of all the exiled Bhutanese to their homesteads in Bhutan with rights of a citizen reiterates its commitments for the establishment of vibrant and inclusive democracy with the Multi-party system of Government. In keeping with changing aspiration of the Bhutanese people and the need for safeguarding their rights and freedom, the party stands for replacement of absolute monarchy by a constitutional monarchy as a symbol of continuity and as a constitutional Institution, which can unify the diverse socio-political forces to achieve a common destiny of all Bhutanese people and national integration.
The party also recognizes the fact that without the involvement or support of the international community there will not be an amicable and durable solution of decades long multi-faceted crisis that has been tormenting Bhutan and its neighbour. There shall be no reconciliation and amicable solution with not standardizing the attitudes of both ruling and struggling class. The BPP is also committed to build a secular Bhutanese society, where all religious practitioners will be treated equally and without any discrimination.
The party works for the creating a politically and economically strong Bhutan. It would work for the political unity of discrete ethnic groups, which would strengthen the political unity of the country. It would create greater the level of harmony among the people to eliminate the chances of conflicts. BPP stands that government have to recognize and address its ethnic conflicts before it is too late. There is an urgent need for reconciliation with the democratic forces in exile and make the democracy truly participatory in nature.
Bhutan Before 1991
Bhutan After 1991