The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Saturday, March 23, 2013




Bhutan is a tiny landlocked, mountainous kingdom perched on the eastern Himalayas surrounded by India in the south, east and west and by the Autonomous Region of Tibet in the north. The country has three main ethnic groups - Ngalongs of Tibet Stock in the west, Sharhops of Tibeto-Burman origin in the east and Lhotshampas of Nepalese ethnicity in the south. The country has an estimated population of around 6,00,000. In Bhutan there is no written constitution nor an independent judiciary to impart justice, the judiciary works like simply another government department with no qualified legal practitioners. Under such circumstances each and every right of the individual as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are under the mercy of the rulers.

Under the situation the Student Union of Bhutan (SUB) was formed on 23 March, 1988 inside the country by the college students and people in different government services and institutions. After one and half years of clandestine low profile activities (for it was unlawful to form any kind of association or union) it was forced to operate from outside following governments crackdown and arrest of some of its activists in late 1989.SUB is a platform shared mostly by Bhutanese Students and Youths in various fields regardless of their religious faith, races, caste, creed, sex etc. maintaining its own identity and rising above partisan politics, this oldest body has always been in the forefront of the Bhutanese movement.

WHEREAS; the incessant violation of fundamental rights of individuals by the Royal Government of Bhutan raised the consciousness of the student body in Bhutan caused the creation of an Union on March 23, 1988 at the Sherubtse College in Kanglung, Tashigang.
HEREAS; the Union upholds and reaffirms its faith in the respect of fundamental Human Rights in the Dignity and worth of the Human Person and in the equal rights of men and women regardless of ethnicity, caste or creed as enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
WHEREAS; disregard and contempt for Human Rights have resulted in barbarous acts by the Royal Government of Bhutan.
WHEREAS; the Royal Government of Bhutan continues, inter-alia, to show utter disregard and contempt for article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with regard to the Right to Education.
NOW, THEREFORE, WE do covenant and declare, through this Union to struggle for fundamental Human Rights, Dignity of the Human person and Democratic reforms, and to secure for all students and youth in Bhutan, regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, the right to education and full development of the human personality.
FOR THESE ENDS, WE do resolve to accomplish these aims and objectives and do hereby constitute and adopt the STUDENTS UNION OF BHUTAN as hereunder.
1.1  There shall be an organization named the STUDENTS UNION OF BHUTAN, hereinafter called SUB by abbreviation.
1.2SUB shall maintain an independent position without affiliation to any political any Party.
1.3The Head office of SUB shall be located at Phuntsholing Bhutan.
1.4Functional and other branch offices of SUB may be located at other places, including territories outside Bhutan, depending upon the circumstances and need for such establishments.
1.5SUB shall function a purely non-profit, service oriented, mass based organization
2.1The SUB flag shall be rectangular with a width to height ratio of 1.35 to 1.00. The base color shall be blue. Three yellow stars shall be placed in a straight line on the top of the flag and a brown pen, lying on the book shall point to the extreme right star.
2.2The blue background of the flag symbolizes vastness and humanity. The open book and pen represent wisdom and knowledge, white further signifying purity and peace, and brown symbolizing thought and expression. The three yellow stars stand for brightness, youth & students rights and destiny.
3.1SUB shall seek avenues and opportunities for the education of children affected by the current movement for democracy and Human Rights in Bhutan.
3.2SUB will promote the ideals of democracy and freedom of the individual. It will cooperate with and assist any organization struggling for Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Person in Bhutan.
3.3SUB shall take up the cause of prisoners of conscience, Human Rights activists and other innocent people in Bhutanese prisons.
3.4  SUB shall highlight the gross violation of Human Rights by the current repressive regime in Bhutan.
3.5SUB shall respect and safeguard the Sovereignty and Territorial integrity of Bhutan.
3.6In a democratic Bhutan, SUB shall :
  Endeavor to secure the rights of youth & students, and safeguard these rights against any form of exploitation.
Fight against all forms of discrimination.
Serve the people and community at large.
Help the administration during the times of emergency and natural calamities.
Work for the upliftment of the weaker sections of society, with special emphasis on women and children
  Help preserve the cultural heritage and traditional value systems, and promote national integration.
Create linkage and promote solidarity with students and peoples in other nations
4.1  Any Bhutanese citizen having attained the age of Fifteen (15) and fulfilling the criteria below may acquire membership of SUB:
He/she abides by this Constitution.
  He/she is a student of trainee, or was a student or trainee at the time the Bhutanese movement for Human Rights and Democracy was launched in 1988.
He/she works, or was working in 1988, in an educational or training institution.
He/she is not a member during the current movement, of any other Bhutan-based organization.
5.1An elected president shall be the Chief Executive of SUB.
5..2An elected Vice President shall function as the assistant to the Chief Executive.
6.1  The functions of SUB shall be carried out through office bearer appointed by the President as noted under Article 15.
7.0  Committees
7.1Central Committee: SUB shall have a central committee comprising a maximum of twenty-seven (27) members, including the President and Vice President.
7.2Executive Committee: SUB shall have an executive committee comprising a maximum of eleven (11) members, including the President and Vice President.
7.3Standing Committee: SUB shall have a standing committee comprising a maximum of seven (7) members. No member of the committees under clauses 7.1 shall be appointed in the standing committee
8.1Every member of SUB shall have the right to cast his vote in the election of the President, Vice President and members of the Central Committee.
9.1Any member of SUB shall have the right to present himself as a candidate in the elections of the Union.
9.2The General Body of SUB shall elect, by simple majority, a President and Vice President.
9.3The general body of SUB shall elect members for the central committee on the basis of maximum vote count for each candidate.
10.2The tenure of elected officials shall be three (3) years
10.3There shall be no bar to the number of occasions elected officials may seek re-election.
11.1  Executive Committee: Members for the Executive committee shall be selected through a process of nomination by the President and endorsement by the central committee.
11.2Standing committee members for the standing committee shall be selected through a process of nomination by the president and endorsement by the executive committee.
12.1General body meetings shall be held at least once each calendar year.
12.2The Central Committee shall meet at least thrice each calendar year.
12.3The Executive Committee shall meet as and when deemed necessary.
12.4  In addition to any regularly scheduled meetings, the President may call emergency or extraordinary meetings of any of the committees or the central body as and when necessary.
13.1The quorum required for the conduct of Central Committee meetings shall be fifty percent plus one.
13.2The quorum required for the conduct of Executive Committee meetings shall be two-thirds.
14.1A vote of no confidence against the President may be tabled with the support of at least one third (1/3) of the Central Committee.
14.2All members of the Central Committee shall be present when a vote of no confidence is tabled.
14.3The President shall be removed by a majority of not less than two third (2/3) of the Central Committee.`
14.4Elected members other than the President may be removed by a simple majority of the members present and voting at the General body meeting.
15.1All appointments for the various posts in SUB shall be made by the President upon the recommendations of the executive committee.
16.1The President shall have the power to accept the resignation of any member of SUB, including office bearers and members of the different committees.
16.2The Central Committee shall have the authority to accept the resignation of the President, Vice president and General Secretary.
17.1The president, upon the recommendation of the executive committee, shall have the power to suspend or expel any non-elected member of SUB, including office bearers and members of the different committees, acting in violation of the constitution and bye-laws laid down within the framework of the constitution.
17.2  In the case of elected members, including the President and Vice President, cases of disciplinary action must be supported by at least one third (1/3) of the voting members. The actions to be taken against the errant elected member shall be approved by two-third (2/3) majority in the general body meeting
18.1The financial resources required to undertake the activities of SUB shall be raised through :
Membership subscription
Donations and endowments
  Sale of SUB literature and publication
Fund raising activities.
19.1No amendment that affects the basic character of the constitution shall be made.`
19.2The constitution shall be amended by a minimum majority of two thirds (2/3) in the central committee, and shall come into effect upon its approval by the general body meeting.
On today’s date April 7, 1992, we the executive members officially endorse and adopt these bylaws:
President:                                                    Bishwanath Chhetri (Mr)
Vice President:                                           Tarabir Subedi (Mr)
General Secretary:                                       Kamal K. Dhital (Mr)
Secretary, Adm. & Finance:                        Tek Bir Chhetri (Mr)
Secretary, Indian Affairs:                          Narayan Timsina (Mr)
Secretary Press & Publicity:                    Hem Kant Neopaney (Mr)
                                                                   Chatur Singh Tamang(Mr.)  
Secretary, Camp Affairs:                            Arun Rai (Mr)
Secretary, Public Relation:                          Prahlad Dahal (Mr)
Secretary Women Affairs:                          Bhim Maya Subba (Ms)

Royal Government of Bhutan contempt and disregard for Human Rights have resulted in the barbarous acts by it an continues inter alia to flout  Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This incessant violation of Human Rights by the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) raised the consciousness of the students and people on the other fields leading to the formation of The Student Union of Bhutan (SUB) on March 23, 1988, Sherubtse College in Kanglung Bhutan.

The SUB is a pioneer, an independent and the only students' body in the Bhutanese movement for Human Rights and Democracy. It is formed to acquire, extend and restore Human Rights and Democracy. The Union upholds and reaffirms its faith in the respect of Fundamental Human Rights, in the Dignity, worth and full development of human person and  in the Equal Rights of men and women regardless of ethnicity, cast, creed, religion, language, political beliefs and other opinion as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Aims and Objectives:

  1. SUB will seek avenues and opportunities for the education of children affected by the current  movement for Human Rights and Democracy in Bhutan.
  2. SUB will promote the ideals of democracy and freedom of individuals. It will co-operate and assist any organization struggling for Human Rights and Dignity if Human person in Bhutan.
  3. SUB will take up the cases of prisoners of conscience, Human Rights Activists and other political prisoners.
  4. SUB shall highlight the gross violation of Human Rights by the current repressive regime in Bhutan.
  5. SUB shall respect and safeguard the Sovereignty and Territorial integrity of Bhutan.
  6. SUB shall create linkages and promote solidarity with students and people in other nations.
In a democratic Bhutan, SUB shall;
  1. endeavor to secure the rights of students, and safeguard these rights against all forms of exploitation.
  2. fight against all forms of discrimination.
  3. serve the people and community at large.
  4. help the administration during the time of emergency and natural calamities.
  5. work for the upliftment of the weaker sections of the society, with special emphasis on women and children and
  6. help preserve the cultural heritage and traditional value systems, and promote national integration.
The current crisis which has been afflicting Bhutan since last ten years is the fruit of the seeds sown by the inherent unsecured political institution of absolute monarchy. Alarmed by the tremor of the global upsurge of democratic movement in the eighties it experienced, government enacted some biased laws and regulations victimizing the Southern Bhutanese directly. This strategy essentially to divert national attention from the outside and prevent any possibility of nation wide call for democratic reforms and ensure the continuity of privileges of a selected few guaranteed by absolute monarchy.
Some Biased Acts and Discriminatory Policies:
  1. Census Policy:The crux of current crisis is the fundamental issue of, nationality right of citizens. the Citizenship Act of 1985 which was implemented in 1988 making 1958 as the cut off year, requiring everyone to produce and land tax receipt of 1958 as a proof of domicile in country. The malafide intentions of the government became fully stark when the census team refused to acknowledge receipts issued prior to 1958.
  2. Driglam Namza - A Cultural InvasionTo further add to the woes of southern Bhutanese, Driglam Namza, a code of etiquette of the ruling class was imposed in 1988. It directly interferes with one's personal rights as one has to follow, the prescribed culture, and tradition. The use of the weapon ofDriglam Namza to invade the culture and tradition of other ethnic groups is an unprecedented cultural genocide in the history of mankind and an open non-compliance to Article 27 of UDHR.
  3. Greenbelt PolicyIn contradiction to government's plan to give priority to the agricultural sector in order to achieve self sufficiency in food grain, the "green belt" policy, which aimed at converting one kilometer wide east and west arable southern border into forest was advocated.If implemented, the policy would have displaced around 30% of the population from their original settlement. So, it was more a policy, with utter political motive, has now become clear with the government felling down immature forest plantation in the south to meet its financial needs.
  4. Forced LabourThough serfdom or slavery was completely abolished, in 1986 the National Assembly resolved to form "National Workforce" a force of Workers to meet labour requirements of the country This discriminatory policy required, at times coerced people, to enter into a contract for two years, which in   many instances the contract never expired. The labour conscription from southern  Bhutanese for government  and private estates lasts from fifteen days to a year. And those who are demanded labour for having shown their sympathy towards the Human Rights activists or having participated in the demonstration or given donations are never paid. This policy has greatly affected people's economy in the south and has added to their misery and has made the mockery of Article 4 at the UDHR.
  5. Education Policy: As in other departments/ministries, like Foreign Affairs, Civil Administration, Druk Air, Immigration and Census, Education Department is one, where government never given jobs to a Southern Bhutanese. Even the post of a school principal is reserved for the ruling class.
The Right to Education constitutionally guaranteed in the civilized nations does not prevail in Bhutan. Even the limited available schools facilities are not distributed fairly; for e.g. out of ten high schools only two are in the south and two in the east. Nepali language is removed from the school curriculum and Nepali books were burnt and Dzongkha the language of 12-15% population is made compulsory and the only limiting factor for getting admission in the schools and college and seeking employment.
The college offers very limited subjects and the scholars are compelled to study as per the interest of the Government. The study of Human Rights, Political Science etc. are unimaginable. The government in Bhutan has grossly violated Article 26 of UDHR.
Public dissent and governments counter action
The worst part of the policies was Government's high-handedness in implementation by over zealous officials which prompted a cohesive reaction from the students and led to the formation of SUB on March 23,1988 in Sherubtse College, Kanglung Bhutan. This was followed by similar action by students in other institutions like Deothang Polytechnic and National Institute of Education(NIE) Samchi, Mr. Tek Nath Rizal, the then Royal Advisory Councilor, has to flee the country after three days of harrowing interrogation and torture for having dared to apprise the King about the high handedness of the census team and seeking his intervention into improper conduct of census exercise.
Immense tolerance and every attempt by southern Bhutanese to adjust to the way of life conditioned by the government, failed to win any sympathy. Instead, the government carried with greater intensity and brutality, the plan designed towards the accomplishment of ultimate crime "Cultural genocide".
The students volunteers were compelled to come out in the streets to voice against the draconian policies and regulations of the government in 1990. But the Government instead of recognizing the genuine cause of the people resorted to gun solution and came down hard against the display of public dissent.
Between October 20th to November 1990 the King and his close hard-line associates sat chalking out master plan for countering the crisis. It was decided that the army should be raised to over 20,000 strong men. The difference in land shown by the cadastral survey and the earlier survey with the excuse of illegal land encroachment would be confiscated.
The development activity in the south have been frozen in order to shield southern Bhutanese from exposure to external visitors and also to meet Government expenditure to handle the crisis. The Government started giving arms training in six newly opened training centres to other groups and started instilling in them a feeling of hatred against the Nepali speaking Bhutanese. Thus arousing passions and promising suitable rewards like allotment of lands and other opportunities specially to Sarchops in the east, if they supported the monarch.
At the same time the Royal Government of Bhutan made hue and cry about the non-violent movement and tried to label it as an anti-national terrorist movement by illegal economic immigrant and a handful of politically motivated people. It further tried to justify its every sinful deeds in the name of preservation of unique culture, natural environment and pursue sustainable development in the international fora.
  1. Clamp Down: The government started hunting down the demonstrators. The security forces opened fire on the demonstrators. State terrorism like rape, loot, plunder, arrest without warrant and prolonged detention without trial, was a strategic move by the government to quell the voice of the people. Today southern Bhutan is under army rule with huge force of army stationed at various points.
  2. Closure of Schools and Other Facilities: After the demonstration by SUB, the government became more hostile, towards the Students. Schools in Southern Bhutan were immediately closed down and were converted into army barracks and temporary prisons, directly affecting the career of over 40,000 students. This was followed by withdrawal of public facilities like health and essential commodities. To further ensure that, students are punished, all southern Bhutanese students are asked to produce No Objection Certificate (NOC) from authorities, certifying his/her or even his/her relatives on involvement in the movement. The government even went up to the extend of concealing scholarship of there who were studying in India.
  3. Destroying of leadership: In order to destroy the leadership and give death to the movement, Govt. arrested village head, National Assembly members and prominent citizens of both Nepali and Sarchop origin who would have taken effective leadership in the movement. Virtually all village headman and assembly members of southern Bhutan are either in prison or in exile.
  4. Eviction and Mass Exodus: When the fully unleashed security forces went on the spree of mass torture, arrest, loot, plunder and other forms of intimidation, the people succumbed to the government's hostile regulations and terror tactics. Seeing no point in desperately sticking to their homes under continuous threat and uncertainty for life, people started fleeing the country leaving behind everything they owned. The government also started systematically evicting people after forcing them to sign "voluntary migration forms". This resulted in the mass influx of people seeking refuge in Nepal.
Plight of Bhutanese Students:
Students are the hardest hit group and the maximum sufferer and this struggle after the peaceful demonstration, the government intensified its hunt for the student activists. All schools in southern Bhutan were closed down, and served as prisons and barracks. Students studying in the other areas were also denied education on grounds of his relatives participating in the demonstration. Those who wish to look for jobs to earn his/her living were also denied on same ground.
With the unleashing of terror and violence by the repressive Thimphu regime, the number of Bhutanese evicted or fleeing the country increased, today there are over 85,000 Bhutanese sheltered in the UNHCR monitored eight camps in Nepal.
Because of the tremendous influx of students, SUB had to re-orient its activities and take initiatives to open school in various camps before any agency turned up for help. Today these students are benefiting from the Refugee Education Programme financed by CARITAS Nepal and UNHCR. However, there are thousands who, for some reasons cannot dream continuing their studies in order to make their life a meaningful one.
Ten years have passed since the problem in Bhutan first began. The government however, failed or has shown little interest to resolve the problem. Instead, the government has been trying to malign those who are struggling for human rights in Bhutan with baseless charges. The government is using all the machinery at its disposal to misinform the world about the genuine cause for dissent, and making every effort to quell the voice for justice.
Government has already planned to open army wings and training centres in the South at Pinjuli, Ghumauney, Sarbang etc.  with the help of Indian Government. The Thimphu regime's determination to suppress its citizens and continue with it repressive policies has become clear with the non-inclusion of human rights issue anywhere during Nepal-Bhutan talks, and not taking the Bhutanese dissidents group in confidence. In Thimphu's context human rights activism is a punishable act. The agreement to categorize people into ''Bhutanese who have committed criminal acts' has complicated the issue of Bhutanese refugee repatriation and pushed it into uncertainty.
This utter disregard for the origin for the rights of its own citizens, including Conventions which Bhutan has committed to respect is not only a crime but also challenge to all the justice loving people of the world.
The SUB appeals to all justice loving people, human rights groups and government to exercise their influence with the RGOB and persuade it:
  • to take the refugees back home in dignity and honour;
  • to release all human rights and political prisoners unconditionally;
  • to extend full support and solidarity in our endeavor to usher human rights and democracy in Bhutan.


May 16, 1991

His Majesty the King,
Thimphu, Bhutan.

Your Majesty,

Most humbly I beg to submit the following:

I am grateful for the recent promotion to the rank of Director General granted to me by your Majesty. In view of the current situation prevailing in the Kingdom I am certain the decision to honour me through a promotion was made after due deliberations by the Royal Government. I have, likewise, given this matter the most serious consideration before coming to my decision.

Your Majesty, as a nationalist concerned with the fate and destiny of my country, like most, I watched the unfolding development with trepidation. The ordeal worsened with each passing day as the Royal Government hardened its attitude not just against the militants outside but even against innocent subjects within. Your Majesty, by inference from the actions taken to date and the views of the official media, it is amply clear that the Government has never seen this issue as being on between dissidents and the Government, but one origin. This has been the most painful truth that the Southern Bhutanese people have now learnt. The Southern Bhutanese of Nepalese origin are Your Majesty’s subjects as much as Bhutanese from other parts of the Kingdom. Your Majesty inherited this ethnic group along with the Kingdom. From the time of the first King, Your Majesty’s great-grandfather, the two main ethnic groups have survived and lived in harmony. In the numerous attempts that have been made to topple the Wangchuck dynasty the Southern Bhutanese are unwanted subjects is gravely unjust. Having worked sincerely and diligently towards building a better Bhutan, I personally feel cheated by the way the Government has done everything in its powers to destroy the peace and harmony that existed till the recent past.

Your Majesty, with the hope that justice will one day prevail, I was able to control my dismay and emotions when suspicion and mistrust fell upon anyone from Southern Bhutan. I withstood the outright racist attacks unleashed on the Southern Bhutanese by the Government through the Kuensel. I retained my sanity and hoped for an eventual return of rationality even as systematic harassment of the people in the Southern districts continued. I have sympathized with the people in my own home district of Chirang, and continue to share their suffering as the Government methodically deprives them of the bare necessities of survival. But when tiny children are subjected to the wrath of the Government, I believe the time has definitely come to distance oneself from the Administration.

The sea change from peace to chaos has only required two years. It requires no hindsight to realize that the spark which ignited the fire certainly did not come from the people but from the Royal Government itself. Is it simply a righteous policy gone awry or a purposeful policy conceived to intentionally create this current crisis so that the domination of one ethnic group over the others is assured for the future? Regardless of the intentions behind the spark, the Southern Bhutanese as a whole are being made to suffer, but the painful consequences cannot be avoided by the other half of the population. The future of our country itself, therefore, hangs in a precarious balance, a situation wherein Your Majesty alone, if Your Majesty so desires, can tilt the scales towards peace and stability.

Your Majesty is, I am certain, aware of the various policies currently in force primarily to harass and punish all Southern Bhutanese. There are many languishing in jails while many have been made to leave the country. The “green belt”, an issue which has absolutely no environmental basis in our context, has been revived to evict people from fertile lands. On the pretext of restricting flow of funds to dissidents, the Government has withheld from the farmers money accrued through export of cash crops. In the guise of militants, the security forces continue to rape and plunder families in Southern Bhutan.

The district of Chirang has come in for particularly harsh treatment since it is far removed from international borders, and therefore, impartial witnesses or the media. There is a total ban on movement of essentials such as common salt. Most trading licenses have been cancelled while common people are denied the right to carry such essentials from outside the district.

All the above are perhaps understandable from a Government machinery bent upon fulfilling its ill-conceived objectives. However, when the excesses have now reached a situation where children are also being penalized, my conscience will not permit me to hold myself back. I cannot bear the accusations of a six year old child denied the right to education, a penalty the child is being made to pay for the convections, right or  wrong, of older relatives. I firmly believe that the Government is morally wrong in taking these harsh and unjust steps against innocent little children. I cannot have this on my conscience, even indirectly, by being a part of the Royal Government, and therefore, have decided to resign.

In view of the current fear psychosis that now pervades among all Southern Bhutanese I have chosen to make my decision known from outside the country. I have always been apolitical, and wish to remain so, but I cannot dare hope that the administrative machinery of the Government would leave me to roam freely within Bhutan. I, therefore, beg Your Majesty’s kind understanding and forgiveness in the matter.

Your Majesty, if I am judged to have been disloyal and unpatriotic by my decision to resign, I will have cause to believe that I have been sorely misjudged. I firmly believe that in the national context loyalty is but one among many other ingredients that go towards the making of a patriotic citizen. Dedication and true commitment to the well-being of a nation as a unified entity are, in my humble opinion, other factors that define nationalism. I have reached the conclusion that what is currently taking place, and the policies that have brought us to this crisis, has its roots in the desire of the Government to instill the supremacy of one section of society over others, and, therefore, does not have the greatest of the greater interest of the nation at heart.

I am hopeful that a solution will soon be found to restore peace within the Kingdom. Bhutan cannot afford continuous strife that steadily depletes limited resources and brings much needed development to a complete halt. I pray that Your Majesty will take suitable measures to steer us back to the path of harmony, stability and prosperity.

                                                                                            I beg to remain,
Your Majesty’s most humble and obedient servant,
                                                                                  ( BHIM SUBBA)
                                                                     DEPARTMENT OF POWER

Forced Eviction of Nepali-speaking citizens in Bhutan

Forced Eviction of Nepali-speaking citizens in Bhutan
 On 17 August, 1990 the Home Minster Dago Tshering issued a Government notification addressed to the Dzongdas (Chief District Officers) of six districts in southern Bhutan stating that " It has come to the government's notice that a large number of Southern Bhutanese people have left the country to join forces with the Ngolops (government declared the dissidents as Ngolops meaning anti-national). You are hereby instructed to immediately inform all the Gups (Village headmen), DYT (District development Committee) members and the general public in your dzonkhag (district) that any Bhutanese national leaving the country to assist and help the anti-nationals shall no longer be considered as a Bhutanese citizen. It must also be made very clear that such people's family living under the same household will also be held fully responsible and forfeit their citizenship". As a result of this government notification, more than 120,000 Lhotshampas were systematically evicted. This notification is the living testimony and evidence that the Lhotshampas were forcefully evicted.

The army, militia and the police were mobilised under him to forcefully evict the Lhotshampas. The citizenship cards of many fleeing Lhotshampas were confiscated by the government officials, though majority of them possess other documentary evidence of their origin to Bhutan. Amnesty International, London in its report clearly establishes that " under 1985 Citizenship Act, tens of thousands were declared to be illegal and forcibly evicted from Bhutan. Others fled in the face of officially sanctioned pressures.. arbitrary arrests, beating, rape, robberies and other forms of intimidation by police and army."

The government ordered demolishing and burning down of Lhotshampas' houses. Bhutan's barbaric act could not be more different from Yugoslavian president Slodoban Milosevich or Chile's ex-president Augusto Pinochet's acts.

In its report, 'Bhutan : Forcible Exile' published in August, 1994, Amnesty International believes that many people in the (refugee) camps in Nepal have been forced out of Bhutan as a result of measures taken by the Bhutanese authorities. Even the high level investigation team constituted by the king to look into the allegations of force eviction led by Home Minister, Dago Tshering reported that senior government officials in Chirang District intimidated two families to forced eviction.

Extreme racial discrimination including rape, torture, indiscriminate arrests, custodial deaths and eviction of Lhotshampas began after the peaceful protests against the forceful assimilation policies of 1985 and is continuing till today. According to the report of International Movement Against Discrimination And Racism, Japan, "A confidential survey carried out by a consultant to an international refugee agency found that most torture took place in 1990 and 1991, following the increase in demonstrations in September, 1990. Following the peaceful protests, demonstrators and members of their families were violently punished for their direct or indirect involvement in the protests. According to the study, repression in the form of rape did not abate until 1993".

The government planned a number of strategy to forcefully evict the Lhotshampas from Southern Bhutan. Firstly, through government created reign of terror. The state empowered the security forces to deal with the dissidents and their sympathisers. Mass arrests of innocent villagers, torture and death in police custody, rape, loot, plunder, threat to life of Lhotshampas by the security forces compelled the innocent Lhotshampa folks to flee Bhutan. Many families had to leave Bhutan to save the honour of their women folks from the brutality of security forces. The government conducted frequent population census of southern Bhutan to assess the targeted numbers of those fleeing Bhutan.
Second strategy was to seek a legislative mandate from the Drukpa dominated National Assembly to evict everyone related to or associated with the on-going peaceful human rights and democratic movement along with entire family, even though many of the family members did not participate in the peaceful demonstrations.

Thirdly, the security forces verbally threatened the Lhotshampa villagers either to leave the country by selling their properties or face the threat of imprisonment, death and continued harassment and humiliation. The fear-ridden folks had no choice but to sell their properties at throw-away prices to the government officers, their relatives and other Drukpas and apply for out-migration from the country. Their photographs and video films were taken as a proof of their being voluntary migrating. The government has classified them as 'voluntary migrants'. More than fifty percent of refugee camps inmates do fall in this category. Hence, the government's insistence on classifying them as 'voluntary migrants' not entitled to return, even if the refugee problem is resolved. Migrants are not entitled to return the country as per the existing laws of Bhutan.

Bhutan stepped out of her isolation late in sixties. Because of low rate of literacy, lack of information and communications with outside world (due to absence of frequent exchange of ideas, and television etc.), absence of freedom of expression, press and publications, it was only natural that majority of Bhutanese, by and large remained under-informed. There is not private intelligentsia in Bhutan. Most of the students who studied in Indian schools and colleges under the Government of India scholarship were all employed in the government services. So, the government bureaucracy was and still is the most dominant intelligentsia in Bhutan.

Mr.  Tek Nath Rizal was a civil servant. The  Nepali-speaking officials in the civil services drafted the petition submitted to the king by Mr. Rizal. Even the protest demonstration and human rights rallies were organised in southern Bhutan by the former civil servants  of Bhutan. Mr. R. K. Budathoki, the President of Bhutan People Party which organised the demonstrations in September-October, 1990 was a former Assistant Director in the Department of Revenue and Customs

In May 1991, six top bureaucrats resigned from their civil service posts in protest against the abuses of human rights by the government and defected to Nepal. They were Bhim Subba, the then newly promoted Director General of Power Department, R. B. Basnet, Managing Director of State Trading Corporation of Bhutan, Rakesh Chhetri, Assistant Managing Director of State Trading Corporation of Bhutan, D. P. Basnet, Joint Director, Department of Trade and Commerce, Mandhoj Tamang, Deputy Director of Planning Commission and Mrs. Usha Tamang, Assistant Director of Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan defected to Nepal and applied for political asylum in Nepal, which was granted by the Government of Nepal. They are now in the leadership of the movement. Rakesh Chhetri and Bhim Subba head two human rights organisations, CEMARD and HUROB, respectively, while R. B. Basnet is the President of Bhutan National Democratic Party After their defection, other bureaucrats followed.  Please click on Resignation letter to view it

Had the government of Bhutan read the writing on the walls and taken a rational approach to settle and diffuse the political problems, instead of declaring its citizens of southern districts as 'illegal immigrants' and 'anti-national' for opposing the violation of their fundamental human rights, i.e., the right to nationality, even with hindsight,. the peace and tranquillity of the country would have never been disturbed. This problem of small dimension has now engulfed the entire country and has taken the shape of present form of movement. The government itself is to blame for creating the problems.

Mass expulsion started in 1991 when the government resorted to forced evictions intimidating the innocent villagers into signing "voluntary migration forms" under torture and threat of life imprisonment. Now the majority of the refugees in the camps in Nepal fall under this category.

Continued: Please click on Myth of Voluntary Migration for continuity of the events.

Bhutan's IMMIGRAnTs

Bhutan is a nation of immigrants. There is no indigenous groups in Bhutan. In late eighties, the Royal Government of Bhutan alleged that around 125,000 (or one fifth of the total population of Bhutan) Nepali-speaking Lhotshampa citizens in the southern Bhutan were illegal immigrants. After declaring this group of population as illegal immigrants, it forcefully evicted them, who are now living as refugees in Nepal and India. It says that all Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal and India are illegal immigrants. The roots of the current political crisis in Bhutan and the refugees lie in Bhutan's geopolitics and population politics. The regime devised various strategies to bring about a favourable demographic balance favouring a Drukpa nation by reducing the number of Lhotshampas to around 25% and to prevent the demand for democracy from Southern Bhutan. This was criminal in intent and was designed to deprive the Nepali-speaking Lhotshampa and their children of their fundamental right to nationality. 
The government in order to create a favourable international opinion for its sinister design, went on a vigorous propaganda war in all major regional and international media against its own citizens by branding the refugees as illegal immigrants.. The bogey of illegal immigrants is nothing more than a ploy of diverting the international attention from the real issue of demand for the replacement of the current despotic and autocratic political system with Constitutional Monarchy, human rights, democracy and rule of law.

The government bogey of so-called illegal immigrants needs to be judged in the right context so that truth is unveiled to the world. It is well necessary to ascertain whether such a phenomenon exists in reality in modern-day Bhutan. The Bhutan story of 'illegal immigrants' is in no way comparable to the menacing problems faced by some of the European and North American countries. During the Seventh Round Table Meeting (RTM) of development partners for Bhutan was held in Thimphu on 7-9 November 2000, Austrian diplomat said that "commercial refugees" in the context of Europe should not be confused with the 'status of minorities' (Lhotshampas), residing in the country for many years and respecting its leadership and the government.

It is indeed important to look into the economic resources, availability of economic opportunities, agricultural land and process of granting citizenship certificates in Bhutan that normally encourage the illegal immigrants to prove that whether Bhutan really provided an "economic attraction' for new immigrants. These issues are discussed below.

Process of Granting Citizenship Certificate  
It is simply impossible for an outsider to obtain Bhutanese citizenship both legally or illegally because of the rigorous standards for obtaining citizenship. The king had delegated the authority of issuing the nationality/citizenship certificates to Dzongda (Chief District Officer or District Magistrate) as per the provisions of the National Law of Bhutan. 1958 and the then existing policies. In most South Asian countries, the District Magistrate is responsible for issuance of such certificates.

A Bhutanese applicant is required to submit his/her application for citizenship to the office of Dzongda. The Dzongda checks whether or not the name of applicant's father or the head of the root household is registered in the land record register (Thram) maintained in the District Office. The Dzongda forwards the application to the village headmen or (Gups) to further verify whether the name of the father of the applicant under his village, is registered in the land records and census register of village or not. The village headman would check the entire records maintained by him.

The land record register contains the names of the head of the joint family of the root household, his wife, children, brothers and sisters, the land holding number and the number of the house. For obtaining citizenship certificates, all households are required to posses ( Sathram) land holding number, the house number issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and these should be enumerated in the land records register maintained by the district administration and the Home Ministry. Possession of land in the name of the head of the root household is the only criteria for obtaining the citizenship identity cards. The citizenship certificate is given only if the name of applicant's head of the family is found in the land register. If the village head man is satisfied with his records, he will write his remarks that name of the father of applicants is found in his register. He will then forward it to the Dzongda with his remarks. The whole process would be minutely undertaken. 
As per the government regulations, all Bhutanese citizens are required to posses the following for all purposes and for obtaining citizenship certificates : 
  • The Sathram ( land records) number, i.e., a record of registered land holdings issued by the Department of Land Records of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Shatram contains the census records of each household in every village. Shatram is registered in the name of the head of the family (father) and contains the name of his wife and all children by name and age.
  • The House number issued by the District Administration and Department of Registration of the Ministry of Home Affairs in each village.
  • The enumeration in the census records maintained by the village headmen and the district administration and updated annually.
  • Bhutanese citizens are required to fulfil certain national obligations, such as compulsory labour contribution or payment of cash in lieu of labour contribution for the development projects for local as well as central schemes. They are called as Saptolemi, Chunidom and Goongdawoola etc
  • Payment of taxes in cash for land, house, cattle, cash crops and fruit orchards etc.
The Dzongda then re-checks it with the main land records register maintained by his office, which include the above information. After tallying the records, the Dzongda approves the application for citizenship and issues the citizenship certificates. The records in two offices must be tallied and matched.

It is noteworthy that the foreigners acquiring citizenship through naturalisation are not required to fulfil the above obligations as they are mostly settled in urban areas. Therefore, all those people, who possess the above documents, irrespective of the date of their entry to Bhutan are Bhutanese citizens.

The then established procedures for acquiring citizenship made it virtually impossible for any non-citizen or outsider to acquire Bhutanese citizenship. The Land Act of Bhutan stipulates that no foreigner is allowed to purchase land in Bhutan. Citizenship certificates are issued by the authorities on the basis of land registration and house ownership records. In other words, to qualify for Bhutanese citizenship, one must own land in one's own or in the name of head of his family. Therefore, the question of the illegal immigrants acquiring citizenship, which the government often claims to mislead the foreigners by branding Lhotshampas does not arise.
A proper population census together with the land survey was carried out for the first time in 1972. The census of 1972 then served the basis for issuance of nationality certificates to the people by the local district authorities, who would check the Sathram number, house number and the census records to enable them to issue the nationality certificate. Another major census to identify and record the Bhutanese citizens was completed in 1980. Teams of census officials led by the Department of Registration were deputed to all over the country to carry out the exercise. Thus, the government had completed a huge task of distributing the citizenship identity cards to all Bhutanese nationals.

In early eighties, the government made it mandatory for all people in Bhutan, both Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese to register with the Department of Registration and later the Department of Census and Immigration, and obtain identity cards issued by the Department of Registration.

Foreigners in Bhutan can be categorised into (a) International staffs of the UN agencies, diplomats, foreign experts, consultants, international and bi-lateral volunteers and tourists from other countries. Visas were issued to them during their stay in Bhutan (b) Civil service workers and their dependants recruited from India including those on deputation from the government of India. They were issued with non-national identity cards during their stay in Bhutan (c) Construction labourers recruited from India and Nepal through contractors. They were issued six-monthly renewable non-national identity cards and (d) Tourists from India including visitors. They were issued with permits for fixed duration. By early eighties, virtually every one in Bhutan, whether foreigners or Bhutanese was registered and issued identity cards.

Following the first census of 1981, all citizens were issued with citizenship identity cards. But now the government claims that these cards were forged. The government initially claimed that any documentary evidence whatsoever, land ownership deeds or documents showing sale, gift, and inheritance of land, tax receipts of any kind etc., showing that the person concerned was resident in Bhutan in 1958 is taken as conclusive proof of citizenship. But now the government contends that payment of property tax in itself is hardly a proof of Bhutanese citizenship as there were many illegal immigrants in the country, who had acquired property.

To the utter dismay of the Drukpa rulers, the 1980-81 census results showed a strong majority of Nepali-speaking population of over 50 percent. ( Though the report was never published), a figure the political implication of which could not be underestimated. Therefore, discreet plans were designed to reduce this majority through the introduction of various manipulative policies and legal measures. The strategy adopted was to enact new legislation and the political conspiracy was to create fake ' illegal immigrants' and get rid of them. The enactment of Citizenship Act, 1985 and its implementation from the retrospective date of December 31, 1958 ( of thirty years) was such sinister game plan.

If the level of illegal immigrants into southern Bhutan after 1958 had been as high as 20% of the total population of around 600,000, as claimed by the government, it was understandable that some actions were required to be taken, but this was not the case. Normally, illegal immigrants are those who live in a country without the notice and knowledge of authorities.

The so-called Bhutanese illegal immigrants have lived in Bhutan for years, owned houses and properties, paid taxes to the government and contributed to the nation-building of Bhutan. Some of them had served in high government offices, armed forces and police and studied abroad under government scholarship. They were genuine citizens until 1987, but were made illegal immigrants in 1988 because southern Bhutan had to be depopulated to pre-empt any dissidence and demand for democratic reforms. How could illegal immigrants acquire landed properties in a small country like Bhutan and remain undetected for thirty or forty years?


In its propaganda materials, Bhutan says that it has been a favoured destination for many Nepalese economic migrants who flee their impoverished homes in the thousands every year in search of a livelihood. Bhutan ludicrously describes itself as an economic paradise for migrants, an El Dorado

Since Bhutan is not an oil-rich or mineral-rich country like some of the middle-east nations, nor is it an industrialised like the western countries, where employment opportunities are abundant and it is neither an agriculturally fertile and prosperous, then why should illegal immigrants enter into Bhutan with the prospect of better opportunities? Bhutan falls under the category of the Least Developed Countries ( LDCs), where roads were built as late as 1965. It is more heavily dependent on foreign aids than Nepal, for its survival. If it was a paradise why did next door Indians not migrate to grab the golden opportunities? The Lhotshampas migrated was long ago, not recently. And their migration was not influenced by economic factors as alleged by the Bhutanese regime. It is also noteworthy that till late eighties ( even today), Bhutan's main economic activities were centred around the services sector manned by around 13,000 civil servants.

On the other hand, there has been out-migration from Bhutan. More than 20,000 Sharchops from eastern Bhutan migrated to neighbouring Darjeeling District and Arunachal Pradesh of India and some, even to Nepal in the sixties. These out-migrations shatter the myth of Bhutan's self-proclaimed economic paradise status. Bhutan was never an economic paradise for immigrants.

In any case, all the Lhotshampa of southern Bhutane were in Bhutan much before 1958. The history of the Nepali-speaking Lhotshampa dates back to around 1625 A.D., much older than the present ruling Wangchuck Dynasty (1907), which is just 84 years old. In the name of eviction of illegal immigrants the government started deporting even the genuine southern Bhutanese.

In 1898, southern Bhutan, the habitat of Nepali-speaking citizens, was accorded a special administrative status under the authority of the Dorji family. "In 1898, for instance, the Kazi (Ugen Dorji) was given full administrative authority over the whole of southern Bhutan, including the right to settle Nepali immigrants in what was then a virtually uninhibited section of the country" (Rose, Leo, The Politics of Bhutan, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1977 - the most authoritative book on Bhutan). By then 'some districts in eastern and southern Bhutan faced more severe population pressures on the land and by 1950s in both southern and eastern Bhutan, population pressure upon land resources was becoming a problem in these areas (Rose Leo ). This is a telling pointer to the fact that significantly large number of Lhotshampas already existed in Bhutan at that time.

This confirms that: a) Lhotshampas had settled in southern Bhutan prior to the installation of the hereditary monarchy in 1907, b) Lhotshampas settled in virgin territory without displacing the original inhabitants, and c) Southern Bhutan suffered from population pressures even before the 'cut-off' year of citizenship i.e. 1958.

Bhutan has the least percentage of agriculturally suitable land in the whole of South Asia. Only 7.7 percent of the total land is potentially able to be used for agriculture and cultivation ( Planning Commission's Statistics 2000). This also proves that there was no land in Bhutan to accommodate new immigrants after the turn of 1900. Again, until late seventies, the government did not allow the Lhotshampas to buy landed properties and build houses in the capital, and in the north-western districts. They were also required to obtain a prior permission from the government even for in-country travel.

The British Empire in India too encouraged the settlement of Lhotshampas in southern Bhutan. Their motive was to establish a fully loyal population to the Bhutanese throne, which they were backing. Irrespective of other reasons advanced, such as safeguarding the borders of Bhutan, the British Raj wanted a long-term stability in the body politics of Bhutan, which depended on the strength of the institution of monarchy. It was also hoped that with the new Hindu settlers, culturally respecting and recognising the institution of monarchy, even the Buddhists in the long run would be accustomed to respect and live under monarchy. Unlike the Hindu religion, Buddhism does not recognize the sanctity of monarchs. It was expected that a blend of support coming from both the Hindus and the Buddhists would provide the much-needed legitimacy to the monarchy - which until 1907 was an unknown phenomenon in the political history of Bhutan.

The whole motive of the government bogey of 'illegal immigrants' was to prevent the demand for democratic rights from the southern districts, which have open borders with democratic India and to bring about a favourable demographic pattern by reducing the population of Lhotshampas
Please click on Sheltering Terrorists  for continuity