Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Turn: U.S. has chance to help people of Bhutan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's five-day trip starting Friday is tightly packed: He will be meeting Obama and a slew of top American officials, addressing the U.N. General Assembly, interacting with the heads of major U.S. companies and influential Indian-Americans.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's five-day trip starting Friday is tightly packed: He will be meeting Obama and a slew of top American officials, addressing the U.N. General Assembly, interacting with the heads of major U.S. companies and influential Indian-Americans.
With the historic summit between India and the United States under way, I, as an exiled new American from Bhutan, would like to urge the Obama Administration to discuss with India the possible resolution of the protracted humanitarian crisis in Bhutan, India’s neighbor.
Since the early 1980s, peace has been taken from the Lhotshampas, people living in the southern part of Bhutan who generally speak Nepali and ascribe to a different religion than the majority Bhutanese. The tragedy began by the forcible and unilateral revocation of citizenship from an innocent ethnic Nepali population (Lhotshampa) in Bhutan after changing the Citizenship Act that had adorned the Lhotshampa population there with citizenship rights.
Policy changes at that time required people to follow only the majority Buddhism culture, including wearing their clothing and speaking their language, and renounce their minority religion, Hindu, and their culture. What followed was imprisonment, torture and in some cases rape, as well as the confiscation of land, homes and property, and the eventual forced eviction of more than 100,000 innocent citizens who became stateless and homeless. And still, according to Human Rights Watch, more than 80,000 Lhotshampa and other ethnic communities are living in Bhutan without their basic human rights, including the free exercise of religion and citizenship rights, and are under constant threat of imprisonment, torture and eviction.
More than five years ago, the world community, recognizing the plight of the Bhutanese refugees, but unable to convince the Bhutanese government to grant full citizenship and stop religious and ethnic repression, began the process of resettlement of more than 90,000 refugees.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Australia and New Zealand welcomed these repressed families to their shores and into their communities.
This includes the wonderful people and communities of Concord, Laconia and Manchester right here in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire is a place where freedom, including the freedom of religion, reigns and is embraced. But those of us who are so lucky to live here still care very deeply about the plight of those who remain in Bhutan and in refugee camps in Nepal.
For the restoration of peace and human rights, it is time to initiate reconciliation between the government of Bhutan and the people it rejected.
The collaboration and effort of the largest and oldest democratic countries on earth – the United States and India – is critical to end this protracted humanitarian crisis. Both the United States and India play vital leadership roles toward advancing freedom and human rights, as well as fighting against terrorism and dictatorship in order to ensure global peace, prosperity and democracy.
The United States and India should to take up the prolonged Bhutanese refugee issue in their discussions so that justice might finally be advanced in India’s neighbor of Bhutan.
I am also hopeful that United States Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte might also voice their support for productive conversations between India and the United States on this issue. Now is the time to make forward progress for those who were not so fortunate to make it to wonderful places like New Hampshire.
(Suraj K. Budathoki, a former refugee from Bhutan who is now a U.S. citizen living in Manchester, is executive director of An International Campaign for Human Rights in Bhutan.)

My Turn: The road from Bhutan

  • Suraj Budathoki
    Suraj Budathoki
  • Suraj Budathoki
  • Suraj Budathoki
  • Suraj Budathoki in Nepal
  • Suraj Budathoki in Nepal
  • Bhutanese valley
Starting over is often frightening and seldom easy. There are always those items too precious to easily part with, no matter the circumstances around them. We can find ourselves lost and confused amid the conflicts and changes forced upon us. This becomes all the more painfully true in those times when our loyalties and our sense of identity are challenged. Those times carry a special torment and often leave the deepest scars in our hearts.
For Suraj Budathoki of Manchester, it is time to start over.
On the 18th of April, he became a citizen of the United States of America. It was a hard-fought milestone, bringing to an end 24 years of fear, anguish and rejection. When he speaks of his new home, he is fond of saying that U.S.A. means “U start again.”
Suraj is one of several thousand refugees of Bhutan who have come to America with the hopes of starting over. His infectious enthusiasm is evident in his enormous smile. In looking at him, you may find it hard to believe the hardships he and his family have had to endure. Suraj looks to the future and sees all the possibilities that his new home and country hold for him, his family and his people. Yet, there are still those memories that beckon him to look behind. They are just too precious to leave, too sacred to be forgotten. The loss of his ancestral home, the livestock his family tended and all the potential that was taken from him for more than 20 years still twist in his soul. He wants the world to know the truth. He wants justice.
The history
At the time the British Empire left India, Bhutan came to a point of starting over. On Aug. 8, 1949, Bhutan signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship with India. While India did have some control regarding Bhutan’s relations with foreign countries, this was the first time Bhutan was recognized as an independent nation. It must have been an exciting time for the Bhutanese people. Their country was now free and able to build its own identity.
The momentum was set, and Bhutan raced forward to be a modern nation. In 1952, with the death of the king, Bhutan began to become a democracy and formed the national assembly. Six years later, the longstanding tradition of slavery was abolished. There were growing pains along the way. Starting over is hard, but progress would not be stopped. By 1971, Bhutan joined the United Nations and entered the world stage.
Nestled between China and India, Bhutan boasts both the majestic peaks of the Himalayas and lush grassy fields. In many ways, it is a paradise on Earth. In fact, in 2006 Business Week rated Bhutan the happiest nation in all Asia, eighth happiest in the world. Much of this is owed to the Gross Happiness Doctrine enacted by the Bhutanese government. This grand and noble gesture, that every citizen should be happy, separates Bhutan from other nations. It is inspiring idea in so many ways and suggests brave and idealistic rulers. However, there is a dark shadow cast over this happiness. It seems that for some to be happy, others must be placed in misery.
The admirable goal of universal happiness flies in direct contrast to Bhutan’s policies regarding its Nepali­-descended minority, known as Lhotshampas. Those policies have marginalized, subjugated and persecuted nearly 20 percent of the country’s population. After a long history of legal harassment, much of the ethnic Nepalese in Bhutan have been chased out the country and forced to live in refugee camps.
After the consolidation of Bhutan in the early 17th century, the then-Civil Administrator Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal went to Nepal and brought a few families as construction workers. The Bhutan House (present day embassy) in Kalimpong, India, resettled huge numbers of Nepalese in the southern region of Bhutan as a buffer to British colonial power in India. Also, in the latter part of the 19th century and early parts of the 20th, Nepali immigrants entered Bhutan as workers. Soon they were feared for being such a large minority and were forbidden to settle in the northern portion of the country.
In response, they made Southern Bhutan their home. During 1958, the Citizenship Act officially gave citizenship to those who could prove they had been in the country for at least 10 years. It was an opportunity for so many looking for a new life.
However, those old fears against them came back in the form of policies limiting their citizenship. In an effort to enforce a national culture (mainly those of Northern Bhutan) the government began to marginalize the southern portion of their country. The Bhutanese Citizenship Act of 1985 (setting the policy of “one nation, one people”) set codes of conduct regarding public dress, behavior and even an attempt to limit the languages spoken in schools. It was clear that the ruling powers were targeting the Nepali minority. No more so was this evident than in the manner of redefining who was and wasn’t a citizen of the nation. Those now deemed to no longer be citizens were forced to relinquish their property to the government. Speaking against such policy was grounds for losing citizenship. The Lhotshampas were effectively denied democracy.
In 1988, Bhutan had its first census. Many feared that this was merely an exercise in determining who was of Nepali descent. The Lhotshampas were outraged and protested. Those who spoke against the king and his policies were soon arrested or forced to flee. Suraj’s family was among those who ran in fear of being imprisoned.
Refugees
It was at night that his family left. They packed what they could, poured all of the feed for their livestock in the center of the yard, opened all the pens and took flight. He relates how it all seemed so exciting to his 10-year-old self. He got to ride in a truck and was innocently excited for it.
There being no place for them in Bhutan, the refugees set up seven camps in the uninhabited portions of Nepal. The conditions were miserable. The houses were little more than bamboo huts with dirt floors and thatched roofs. The Budathokis settled in Timai, the first of such camps. It was the harshest of new starts. They lost everything, with little hope of anything ever getting better.
It can be hard to envision what life was like in such a place. Most property was shared by necessity. Work was hard to come by, and money was scarce. The people have to make do with what little they brought with them or could manage to scrounge together. Sickness ran rampant, as did malnutrition. There was no electricity, no plumbing and little protection from the elements. Suraj tells of his childhood with such a pleasant nature that it almost belies the bleakness of his story. How he had to get up early every morning to secure a good place in line for water. How he spent his days breaking rocks down by the river to earn money for his family. Every story peppered with misery told by a man now thrilled at the vastly improved conditions of his new life.
In 2008, the United States government agreed to resettle 60,000 of the refugees in America. Suraj is among these. It is a constant struggle to start over in such a different culture. It is a struggle he gladly accepts with all the promise his new life holds. Now a husband and father, he has taken to activism on the part of the several thousand still living in the refugee camps back in Nepal as well as helping those like him here. It is a new life, a good life. It is more than he ever thought he would get in the more than 20 years he was forced to live in exile.
Underneath the friendly and genuine demeanor is the pain and anger of stolen decades he can never get back. That fires him to seek attention for his people and their cause. It makes him appreciate and love his new home all the more. He delights in simple things such as having a job and all the possibilities the future now holds for his daughter. He happily complains about having to pay rent for the first time in his life.
However, the hardships and horrors of his past still haunt his happy life as they do for so many others. While Suraj is able to channel it toward helping the Bhutanese community, so many others cannot escape those demons. The suicide rate among resettled Lhotshampas in the United States is alarming. It is a problem that is taken to heart by those building a new life here. Starting over is never easy.
In many ways, Bhutan is starting over as well.
King Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated the throne in 2006. This set the stage for Bhutan to become a constitutional monarchy. Sadly, the issues of the Lhotshampas have been pushed further back. This is a new beginning for Bhutan and as the country starts over again, there is hope that maybe this time they will correct the sins of their past.
(Trevor Hart lives in Manchester.)

My Turn: Resolution helps boost the voice of Bhutanese

By unanimous vote, the New Hampshire Senate recently passed a resolution honoring the contribution of Bhutanese refugees to the Granite State and encouraging efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Bhutan.  
We wish to thank the resolution’s sponsors, Sens. Dan Feltes, Jeb Bradley, Donna Soucy, Lou D’Allesandro and David Watters, and Reps. Latha Mangipudi, Lee Oxenham and Patrick Long.  We hope the House follows the Senate’s lead, although we can already say the resolution’s passage in the Senate has inspired hope in thousands of refugees from Bhutan – an Asian country globally known as a champion of Gross National Happiness – living in diaspora. We thank the New Hampshire Senate for helping to elevate our voice.
The attention of former Bhutanese refugees both within and outside the United States has been drawn to New Hampshire. This is because the resolution not only urges the state of New Hampshire to recognize the contributions of the resettled Bhutanese to New Hampshire but also call upon the government of the United States to work diligently on resolving the Bhutanese refugee crisis, reaching an agreement to allow the option of repatriation, and promoting human rights and democracy in Bhutan.
The forefathers of these evicted Bhutanese have been living in Bhutan since the 17th century, and they had contributed free labor for the construction of the physical infrastructure – schools, hospitals, roads and monasteries. They converted the barren land into a fertile land and paid tax in cash before any other Bhutanese.
However, despite being legitimate citizens, one-sixth of Bhutan’s population was declared anti-national by the government, which revised the citizenship act that had given them citizenship rights.
In the early 1990s, owing to well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, most of the ethnic Nepali Bhutanese were compelled to flee the country and take refuge in Nepal. After their two decades of the pathetic life of a refugee, more than 2,100 of them are living a meaningful life in New Hampshire through the U.S. government’s refugee resettlement program.
This resolution is very crucial not only to the evicted Bhutanese, but also to those who are still living their suppressed lives in Bhutan.
The CIA World Factbook suggests that 35 percent of Nepali-ethnic Bhutanese continue to live in Bhutan, of which, according to Human Rights Watch, more than 80,000 are considered stateless. This means that if the international community pays no attention to this population in Bhutan, this minority ethnic population could be evicted at any time.
There are still more than 25,000 Bhutanese refugees in Nepal either awaiting their resettlement or rightful repatriation to Bhutan. The passing of this kind of resolution not only gives hope to victims but will also discourage any form of discrimination in Bhutan.
The Bhutanese individuals and their supporters are awaiting the outcome of this resolution, which if passed, creates a new avenue for addressing the prolonged Bhutanese refugee and human rights problems while strengthening the essence and values of democracy in Bhutan.
At a time when the United States is breaking several barriers toward bolstering democratic values across the globe and opening new avenues by bridging the gaps and restoring the diplomatic relationships with passion, purpose and integrity, the resolution also retains the potential to initiate a new chapter in the history of the United States’ international rapport.
It will also help to establish the United States’ direct diplomatic relationship with Bhutan, which can help the Bhutanese resettled in the United States travel to Bhutan to meet their relatives and vice-versa. In the larger benefits and interest of both the people of Bhutan and the United States, it is highly anticipated that the resolution will be adopted without any obstruction because it has witnessed bipartisan support.
(Narad Adhikari is a former Bhutanese refugee. Suraj Budathoki is executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Bhutan.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Turn: U.S. has chance to help people of Bhutan


Published on Sep 30 2014 // OPINION
By Suraj Budathoki, New Hempshire
http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/13719826-95/my-turn-us-has-chance-to-help-people-of-bhutan  
SurajBudathokiWith the historic summit between India and the United States under way, I, as an exiled new American from Bhutan, would like to urge the Obama Administration to discuss with India the possible resolution of the protracted humanitarian crisis in Bhutan, India’s neighbor.
Since the early 1980s, peace has been taken from the Lhotshampas, people living in the southern part of Bhutan who generally speak Nepali and ascribe to a different religion than the majority Bhutanese. The tragedy began by the forcible and unilateral revocation of citizenship from an innocent ethnic Nepali population (Lhotshampa) in Bhutan after changing the Citizenship Act that had adorned the Lhotshampa population there with citizenship rights.
Policy changes at that time required people to follow only the majority Buddhism culture, including wearing their clothing and speaking their language, and renounce their minority religion, Hindu, and their culture. What followed was imprisonment, torture and in some cases rape, as well as the confiscation of land, homes and property, and the eventual forced eviction of more than 100,000 innocent citizens who became stateless and homeless. And still, according to Human Rights Watch, more than 80,000 Lhotshampa and other ethnic communities are living in Bhutan without their basic human rights, including the free exercise of religion and citizenship rights, and are under constant threat of imprisonment, torture and eviction.
More than five years ago, the world community, recognizing the plight of the Bhutanese refugees, but unable to convince the Bhutanese government to grant full citizenship and stop religious and ethnic repression, began the process of resettlement of more than 90,000 refugees.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Australia and New Zealand welcomed these repressed families to their shores and into their communities.
This includes the wonderful people and communities of Concord, Laconia and Manchester right here in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire is a place where freedom, including the freedom of religion, reigns and is embraced. But those of us who are so lucky to live here still care very deeply about the plight of those who remain in Bhutan and in refugee camps in Nepal.
For the restoration of peace and human rights, it is time to initiate reconciliation between the government of Bhutan and the people it rejected.
The collaboration and effort of the largest and oldest democratic countries on earth – the United States and India – is critical to end this protracted humanitarian crisis. Both the United States and India play vital leadership roles toward advancing freedom and human rights, as well as fighting against terrorism and dictatorship in order to ensure global peace, prosperity and democracy.
The United States and India should to take up the prolonged Bhutanese refugee issue in their discussions so that justice might finally be advanced in India’s neighbor of Bhutan.
I am also hopeful that United States Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte might also voice their support for productive conversations between India and the United States on this issue. Now is the time to make forward progress for those who were not so fortunate to make it to wonderful places like New Hampshire.

An Appeal to President Obama and PM Modi.

This is an appeal to president Obama and PM Modi submitted before their historic summit. 

                                                                                                            September 22nd, 2014


The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

The Prime Minister
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi-110001

Dear Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister,

On the historic occasion of the upcoming Indo-U.S summit to be held in Washington-DC next week, we, the exiled Bhutanese, currently resettled in the U.S, would like to ask for the privilege of telling our story, and to seek your kind assistance in addressing human rights and refugee issues.  As a part of your global commitment to ensure peace and security, we ask for your help to seek justice for the exiled Bhutanese who were forced from their country by the Bhutanese government in the early 1990s and the Bhutanese who are living in Bhutan without their basic Human Rights. 

Over two decades ago, peace was taken from us, the Lhotshampa, by the kingdom of Bhutan. This tragedy began, as have too many others, by the forcible and unilateral revocation of citizenship from an innocent ethnic minority by the government. Imprisonment, torture, confiscation of land, homes and property and the eventual forced eviction from the country quickly followed and over 100,000 innocent citizens became stateless and homeless. 

The actions of Bhutan call into question the legitimacy of that government. By what right can any government deny its citizens - who were born in the country, whose ancestors were born and lived in the country for hundreds of years, and who lived in harmony with their countrymen - their national identity solely on the basis of ethnicity? 

Living in the refugee camps in Nepal under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, we endured years of statelessness without justice.  Due to lack of resources, without the right to travel, without the right to work, we had to make do with meager support from the United Nations, the people and government of Nepal and charitable organizations.  Despite the hardship, we managed to create communities in the camp that provided basic necessities including health and education for our children. 

The world has recognized the grave injustice and has provided some assistance to the displaced. Nepal, despite limited resources and its own internal challenges, provided shelter for the refugees and initiated bilateral negotiations with the government of Bhutan, aiming to ensure rights and justice by allowing its people to return.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also entreated the government of Bhutan to restore the stolen rights of the refugees.  However, the Bhutanese government refused to acknowledge the injustice and the immorality of its actions and, refused to allow us to return to our homeland.

Five years ago, the world community, recognizing the plight of the Bhutanese refugees but unable to convince the Bhutanese government to rightfully repatriate its citizens, began the resettlement of over 90,000 refugees. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Australia and New Zealand welcomed us to their shores and into their communities, accepting us as citizens. It is with great gratitude that the refugees have recognized the tremendous gifts of freedom and community that have been given to us.

The United States has taken in many of us, honored with citizenship and offered a home after we spent several years in refugee camps in Nepal. India, the immediate neighbor of Bhutan, has been playing a crucial role in Bhutan’s development, education and security, and provided humanitarian assistance for the Bhutanese refugees, especially in the areas of education and health. Together, your great nations have offered much to us through unsurpassed generosity. You had no role in the injustices that were perpetrated on us, yet you opened your arms and invited us in. 

However, the generosity of your governments does not replace what has been lost nor absolve the government of Bhutan from the injustice that has continued for over two decades. The shame of the actions the Bhutanese government took against its own people are a stain on human history. There can be no peace at the heart of the kingdom of Bhutan while the rejection and mistreatment of its own loyal and peaceful citizens continues. Without justice there can be no peace for over 300,000 Lhotshampa citizens both in and outside of Bhutan. For the restoration of peace, it is time to initiate reconciliation between the government of Bhutan and the people it rejected.

Now, with so many refugees having begun new lives and yet recognizing that nothing can replace or restore the lost and wasted years in exile, we ask for a right to return, to visit the family members we were forced to leave behind. We ask also for the return of our citizenship, and for the right to invest in new lives in our native land, if we so choose.  Some will return, many may prefer to stay in their new nations, but all should have the right to determine where our futures lie. The recompense of our ceased properties would not be a problem given the right to repatriation of willing Bhutanese and Human Rights are granted to the people living in Bhutan. 

Now, we are seeking your help one more time to bring an end to the injustice that both the United States and India have long recognized. We would like your support as we call upon Bhutan to redress the wrongs and to bring justice to the Lhotshampa. Peace cannot be achieved when injustice is allowed to stand. We earnestly hope that the diplomatic leverage of both the United States and India on Bhutan will have a profound restorative impact, so that the Bhutanese can exercise their inalienable human rights and live in peace.


Most respectfully,

Suraj K. Budathoki
Executive Director
An International Campaign for Human Rights in Bhutan (ICHRB)


Monday, June 30, 2014

Inside and Outside Discussion (IOD)

Hello friends,

These days, we have been sharing and discussing about the Bhutanese refugee issue and Human Rights situation particularly on the citizenship rights to southern Bhutanese with my friends who reside in Bhutan. We have shared some of our concerns to one of the legal consultants who lives/works in Thimphu. Not just him, we have shared our opinion with the professors, University students, and even common people in Southern Bhutan. 


After talking with them, we found two starkly different opinions. One group opines that the Bhutanese refugees and citizenship/ Human rights issue are the national issue and government should deal with extra caution. And expressed that they could not in anyway influence the government. Others are sympathetic to those expelled and share the same sentiment but think this isn't any more a national problem. It is solved or going to be solved in near future. 


So, keeping all these national problems in the center, I talked to one of the legal consultants and retired government servants who lives in Bhutan- Wangcha Sangay. 


Good morning sir,

Come to know you from one of your friends and visited your blog- read it almost all your creations. I look forward to read your write-up related to southerner’s problem and citizenship acts/immigration laws that have tarnished the image of beautiful Bhutan in the world.I am one of the victims of those serial citizenship acts and made to leave my beloved land even so I was put into F1 by census team of 1989 at 10yrs of innocent age.Your creation- an eye opener to the world.Thank you.  

Dear Suraj K. Budathoki,


Sorry for the late response. It is not possible for a northern Bhutanese to really gauge the depth of difficulties that arose in Southern Bhutan. And especially for the young innocent of your age that time, it must be just too complex to comprehend or accept. I hope you have a better life now. The sad thing these days is that the census issue has been dehumanized into political tool but I sincerely hope that the people and the leadership will find a way to remove this unfortunate regionalism and race attitude of mistrust. A tiny Kingdom must work towards the goal of wholehearted unification. You may have realized that I write on inspirations aroused by current events that take place in Bhutan or elsewhere and that my main concern is for the welfare of the nation and all her people. If an occasion demands then surely I would be inspired to express my feelings. 


I don't know where you are residing but it was a huge relief for me when it became possible for many of those at JAFFA to go to the West to settle. At least they would have a permanent place to settle and begin a new life. It may not be their choice but under the circumstance somehow I felt more at peace. I always pray and hope that beautiful Bhutan will have a more united people and leadership. As years goes by and our young King gains more confidence and understanding, Bhutan would have brighter GNH future ahead. On your part please think well of Bhutan so that the people of the three regions will have the necessary Blessings of God and Well Wishers to achieve what we must all strive for a happy and secure home for all Bhutanese in the Kingdom of Bhutan. 

Warm regards and good luck,
Tashi  Delek to you also. 
Wangcha Sangey


Here is Narad Adhikari's reply to Mr. Wangch Sangey after reading his blog. 


Dear Mr. Sangey Wangcha, [6/6/14]   
                                                                                             
I am originally from Dagapela. I had to leave Bhutan in 1991, not because of my choice but because of circumstances. I always dream of my beloved country – Bhutan. I want to see peace and progress marching together in Bhutan, so that people in the country can live happily, no matter what ethnicity, religion, culture or tradition they follow or no matter what political ideology they belong to.

I read most of the articles published in your blog. I found them very articulate, inspiring and analytical. Your views and opinion are holistic towards addressing the current and retrospective issues existing in the country. Your optimism that the leadership and the people in the country work together to address them amicably sounds very positive. I am also optimistic that Bhutan – the land blessed by the teaching of Lord Buddha, known as the last Sangri-la on earth, will one day create the avenue for the resettled Bhutanese to recognize as the Non-Residential Bhutanese – who can join hand with the people inside the country and contribute in the task of nation building.

Bhutan is no more an absolute monarchical country. As per the demand of the time – the country has been transferred now into a parliamentary democracy under constitutional monarchy. I am pretty sure, the people and the palace will work hand in hand with mutual trust, respect and understanding to ensure the glorification of Bhutan’s name and fame across the globe.  

The Indian new Prime Minster Narendra Modi, whom you have admired in your blog article, chooses to visit Bhutan, as his first foreign trip, giving high priority in the foreign policy of the government of India. This is a big plus point for Bhutan. Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay too is doing pretty well though the decision of his government’s recent pay hike does not really fulfil PDP’s commitment for people friendly and social welfare government in the country. Pay hike is going to impact the market inflammation, which will directly affect the lives of those who are living below the poverty line. Nevertheless, the visit of Indian PM is anticipated to give a new boost in Bhutan’s economic development plus address the long standing currency crisis.
Before concluding my mail (first mail to you), I would like to draw your kind attention of the plight of innocent southern Bhutanese citizens, who have to opt for third country resettlement after their wishes to return to their homestead could not be materialized even after two decades. Now, very small numbers of the people are left in the camps in Nepal, majority of whom are in the process of resettlement. I think by 2015 end, there will be no refugees left in the camps in Nepal and no more refugee issue between the governments of Bhutan and Nepal.

Bygone is bygone, no matter what happened in the past. People come and go, but the countries remain forever. Hence, it is the prime responsibility of every individual citizen to work for the greater interest of once country. As a legal consultant, I hope you would play significant role in promoting the Bhutan’s interest not only within the country but also outside. The resettled Bhutanese could make tremendous contribution in the socio-economic development. They can no more remain as liability for Bhutan, they can be potential assets provided the leadership in Thimphu play the constructive role, take pragmatic decision and move forward.
The resettled Bhutanese can be the ambassadors by themselves in promoting the aims and objectives of the GNH in the practical and truest sense. If the people of your caliber could play your potential role by convincing the government for opening the door of recognizing the exiled Bhutanese as the non-residential Bhutanese, it will be a new milestone for the progress and prosperity of Bhutan. It is 21st century, and the world has become a global village now.
I look forward hearing from your kind end.

Tashi Delek,   
Narad


Wangch Sangey's reply to Narad Adhikari from his blog. 

Dear Mr. Narad or whoever you are,
Your unexpected mail was a surprise especially because your mail was based on my reply to Suraj K. Budathoki’s email. By the way I wasn’t curious before but after your email I checked up who Budathoki is. Usually as a matter of principle I do not seek to find out who the emailer is but rather react accordingly to the subject in context. I was not sure whether the name Budathoki belonged to a man or a woman that was why I did not put either Mr. or Ms. The name had sounded familiar though I couldn’t place it. I didn’t know he was heading a human rights office but now I realize why the name was familiar. He used to be in the Kuensel News about troubles in Southern Bhutan. It was long time back and now in the back burner of memory. Since you two share emails maybe you work together.

Talking of the past rather than simply burying it actually I believe is a kind of healing process. Many years back I wrote about the Uprising in the South and mailed the letters to the leaders in Bhutan. I wanted a healing process to begin and I wanted also that both southern and northern Bhutanese to see the third perspective not just the perspective of the deeply aggrieved southerner and dismayed possibly shocked northerner.

I appreciate the fact that Mr. Budathoki wrote to me under his real name. But who are you really Narad? Is it Narayani, Narayani or are you prepared to share some personal information?

I am replying your email for several reasons:

You refer to Buddhism and you concede to the fact of people and palace working together. By these references you indicate acceptance the role of Buddhist religion and Buddhist King the two pillars of Bhutanese social, cultural and political spheres.

You said that “the visit of Indian PM is anticipated to give new boost in Bhutan’s economic development plus address the long standing currency crisis.” So maybe you have close source at New Delhi or Thimphu because I don’t know what Mr. Modi aims to do or say during his visit.

And yes as you have pointed out I have admired the ways that Mr. Modi conducted till now. I definitely feel he will be a better change for Bhutan than Gandhis ever were. Even then it is too early to gauge his intentions and substantive style. I am actually quite interested to see how Modi places Advani in the BJP or his government hierarchy after that very public Guru-pupil kind of affection display. That will confirm the meeting point of public style and actual ground substance in the arena of even external affairs. Was the invitation to SAARC leaders a sign of friends at par or was it simply a public purpose to prop up his swearing in ceremony?

Now to answer your question on the issue of non-resident status for Jaffa refugees settled in the West.  I am delving into this subject only because you seem to be a worthy engagement. In spite of being anonymous, you have presented your credentials quite unambiguously.

I am a legal consultant for the reason that some prefer to seek legal advices from me. However I have no connection or influence with the government. I don’t think what I say or write will have effect on the policy of Bhutan because I am just one of the many bloggers in Bhutan. But over the years I have found that I sometimes have this uncanny ways of feeling the wind of future direction. So let me share with you for all its worth. Hope I am not wasting both our times.

Non-residential Bhutanese status (NRB status) seems rather far away when viewed from present knoll. You state that by 2015 all Jaffa refugees will be resettled and there will be no issues between Nepal and Bhutan. Thank you for the information and the confidence that you express with. This NRB status is a new thought to me. However since you are saying it, maybe the concept has been already floated. How different is it from granting outright citizenship which you say was not agreeable in the last twenty years? And further re-settlers would have received the citizenship of the host country. Bhutan usually does not agree with dual citizenship though exceptions maybe in practice for few lucky westerners in Bhutan. I won’t say that NRB status is a farfetched hope but for the foreseeable future, the burning issue is not NRB status. Its citizenship for those who have chosen to stay in Bhutan and not those who were at Jaffa. Political parties in Bhutan may say many things during elections but somehow there is yet to be a comprehensive process to expedite a definite way forward.

As I had said in my reply to Mr. Budathoki’s email, a united effort within Bhutan is necessary to sort out such social pains and distrust. I take great heart in His Majesty’s handling of the acrimonious land issues that happened after the 1st cadastral survey. And in like manner, it is possible that His Majesty will bring about comprehensive ways to sort out the citizenship issues. We have to be prepared to give the Crown some more time and leeway.

The Kings of Bhutan are historically quite liberal with citizenship grants. I remember Bhutan offering Tibetan refugees citizenship and many of them spurned the offer. Regarding the Jaffa refugees, it could be quite a predicament to offer non-resident Bhutanese status because the exodus to Jaffa (planned or compelled) was preceded by a time when the yellow and orange flag was being dragged along the paths of protest March and down with the Kingdom was the offensive chorus.  Even then in every such conflict many innocent by default get victimized. It’s for those innocent victims that I feel for.

Please do not mind but I am putting all the exchanges on my blog. I think it’s the right thing. Its uncomfortable keeping exchanges of national nature between few individuals. In any case you came to know of me through my blog. Wishing you a good day.

Wangcha Sangey

My reply to his email.


Dear Mr. Wangcha Sangye Sir,
Extremely glad to share with you as we both conjure on the same universal sentiment or rather a deeply embedded interest/love towards our country; peace and prosperity of Bhutan and her people. My love towards Bhutan and her people is irrefutable which was barely weathered even though I was reduced to a refugee by the Bhutanese regime.   Before I go further, I must not forget to admit that I read your unexpected encounter in which you referred me as someone you read in Kuelsel long time ago. I still believe that you haven’t got me right. You may have stumbled into Mr. RK Budathoki, but not Suraj K. Budathoki.  As in my preceding email, I expressed that I was only “10 years young” when my father was tortured by Army at his workplace and offered him two options; leave or face persecution. Despite of defending, caring, and securing its citizens, Bhutanese government ousted more than 100,000 people in early 1990s along with my family. Everybody knows this but nobody is ready to concede this reality.



Not just my father, around 2,400 people was tortured by the Bhutanese government at the pick of implementation of Bhutanization policy or I would rather like to call it“cultural acculturation” directives according to one of the journals of American Medical Association. The CVICT reports that more than 200 females, age 8 to 81 were raped by Bhutanese agents. At this juncture, think one of these females is your family member (sister, wife or your mother) and express how much feel for them and what would be your reaction to the perpetrators. Do you ask for justice or reward the perpetrators or just be a silent bystander?



And as you stay in Bhutan, you may also be aware of current situation in southern Bhutan which obviously you are of Thimphu/Paro.  If not I would read one of the articles “waiting for the king” and hope you would be enthused to run your pen on this subject too. I am saying this as you have a huge audience and anything fact, just the fact from your end tend to bring a great awareness in our civil society and in the government officials who like you think that this problem is going to  be solved.



Therefore, I must with utmost urgency tell (you) as a member of conscious civil society that there is no other substitute than to reconcile giving up our differences what so ever we do or rather than pointing other’s nose being mindful of our common interest of our country and her people. As you said, “A tiny Kingdom must work towards the goal of wholehearted unification removing ourselves from regionalism and racial attitude of mistrust.”

Yes, we squandered almost 24 years of our prolific age indulging in retribution among ourselves. But this is the time, as we both (people of Bhutan) resolve on a productive discourse in order to decipher this lingering issue just by doing two simple things; guarantee the citizenship rights/human rights of the southern Bhutanese by liberating the political prisoners and repatriate the willing Bhutanese refugees with their rights as others. But before this happen, both the involved parties should acknowledge the magnitude of the issue and commit to resolve for the interest of the country and her people. 



Tashi Delekh
Suraj K. Budathoki


His reply to my email.


Dear Mr. Suraj K Budathoki                                                                                        

I refer to your email of 26th June, 2014. Thank you for clarifying that you are not “RK Budathoki” as so referred in my blog article “the unexpected encounter”. As stated previously it is not for me a northerner to dispute or judge your grievances. At the same time there can be discrepancies in the information you have acquired. For example I thought all political prisoners have been released. I hope you are not mixing sabotagers (those causing harm to men and properties) with political prisoners. Also it is necessary to move away from propaganda s which only incite instability and back lash. 



The over 100,000 or more being expelled from Bhutan is quite farfetched. I will give you my own reasons. Every house has gung (registration) categorized in three types depending on structure. People in Bhutan live in houses not on or under trees. The number of human dwellings in the south at that time could not possibly accommodate in proper human condition all those supposed 100,000 plus those who stayed on and those who had the right of residency or citizenship.This over 100,000 figure is similar to Tibet government- in- exile contending that over 1 million fled from Tibet. Math does not add up. It is a propaganda tool of civil societies who by and large are mixed bags of goodness and selfishness. They are motivated by human goodness but overridden by organizational survival instinct for more funding as well as the desire to attract world attention.My advice to you, others and human right groups is to take honest factual approach. In any such social and political conflict, there would be horrendous victims. 



The way forward is to heal such nightmarish sufferings to the extent possible. But honest approach bereft of inflationary accusations and figures are call of the hour.   Now regarding citizenship problem that you emphasize upon, yes there is a problem. It is a life ache for those residing in Bhutan and being part of Bhutanese families by birth or marriage. It is not a monopoly for Bhutanese of Nepali origin only. There are others who face this peculiar hardship of social outcast and political uncertainty. But when I think deeper, it is also a pain for the Throne. How does one expect allegiance from those whose members face social outcast and political uncertainty? That’s why I call upon all to give the Throne some space to resolve the issue. 



Henceforth more Bhutanese will marry foreign spouses. It may be practical to deny citizenship to foreign spouses whose allegiance at best would be bipartisan but how can it be sustainable to deny citizenship to their offspring especially born and brought up in Bhutan. Sustainability is based on reasonability and practicability and reducing such offspring to stateless state is neither reasonable nor practical. Presently the scene is like an over loaded passenger truck on a rough track of a road. As it trudges along each passenger and baggage will settle down to finally complete the journey albeit worse for wear and tear but they will experience the satisfaction of having reached the destination. Many of you would naturally disagree but out of the chaos of 1990s some major positive changes have come about. 



Today Lhotsampas are well spread over Thimphu running commercial enterprises, manning most foreign agencies, speaking better Dzongkha than most other Bhutanese in government offices and owning prime properties in the capital. Most of them even have their census under Thimphu Municipal Corporation.  And the youths from Lhotsam face the same unemployment problems and hear the same promises of brighter future that youths from other parts of Bhutan endure. For better or worse the youths are a team unto themselves.In 1990 the call for democracy was actually made by those residing illegally with bona-fide citizens I am told. It certainly was a foreign concept. Today the world at large highly praises the devolving of power from the Throne. The process and the manner in devolving of power to the people are admirable and praise worthy as well as a historic process. However, I do not discount the impact of the 1990 voices with the foreign concept. Even then the ability and the desire of the Royal Institution of Bhutan to evolve with changing times must be lauded. In like manner I feel with good reasons that the citizenship act of Bhutan will have to undergo changes to accommodate the aspirations and demands of time upon the growing young population of Bhutan. 



The national desire to stay holy and pure and unmixed is as adorable as the pursuit of self reliance and GNH. But every national goal needs to be in the interest of its people. And denying citizenship to their offspring is not in the interest of the Bhutanese subjects. There will be pressure on the economy, more unemployment, social and cultural conflicts and impacts. Well we Bhutanese must adopt higher resolve to take such changes and challenges in our national stride. What I can say is that the younger generation led by our King has promising capacity to absorb and deliver. They talk of school groups, college groups and office groups. The older generation of my age bracket still is restricted especially in social integration. There are no political gatherings in Bhutan so gatherings happen at cremation grounds or marriage parties. With the older generation, after the first few minutes of greeting, it’s back to square one: the east to east group; the west to west group; and south to south group. 

We have very poor social interaction although we may share similar political concepts. But the present younger generations have across the board groupings. It is a very healthy sign and His Majesty the King has proven leadership resources to turn the vision of united Bhutanese of all culture, race and region into a national reality.