An open letter to the King of Bhutan

By: Rup Pokharel- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

 

His Majesty the King
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
Tashichho Dzong
Thimphu, Bhutan.

 

Your Majesty,

The year 2016 has just ended with so many historic milestones in the history of the kingdom of Bhutan. The nation got blessed with the future heir to the golden throne- the birth of the Gyalsey, Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, allowing Your Majesties to begin experiencing the bliss of parenthood. The 400th year of the visit of His Holiness Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to the nation stands as signpost to everyone. The temporary return of (“in loan”) the rare statue of His Holiness Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel from Asiatic Society building in Kolkata, India came as a priceless gift from the immediate neighbor. Your Majesty’s successful reign as the King for a decade with numerous achievements, service towards the citizens during the difficult times such as natural disasters, has strengthened the bond of love, amity, and trust between the king and the people. The latest celebration of the 109th National Day in the historic Dzongkhag of Trongsa will remain a cherished landmark in the nation’s history.

Nevertheless, amidst all those great moments of celebrations throughout the year 2016, Your Majesty, there was a sizeable population of over 40,000 Bhutanese subjects mainly in the Dzongkhags of Samtse, Sarpang, Samdrup Jongkhar, Tsirang, Dagana, and Chhukha participating in those celebrations with a ray of hope to celebrate as an authentic citizen. These are the people who have been praying to see an end to their ‘statelessness’ for 25 years. They lament that they have very limited access to get their grievances reaching to Your Majesty’s office. Almost all the attempts to redress their plight end-up at the Dzongkhag level and Your Majesty’s office has rare opportunity to hear them. The national media has conspicuously and cautiously remained silent on this issue for years. When every attempt of theirs got aborted at the local level many of them started reaching out to Bhutan News Service (BNS) as their ultimate means. Out of those many cases-three of them are presented here for Your Majesty’s merciful consideration. Keeping in mind the perceived level of insecurity among these folks at the local level and based on their request, the identity of the cases is withheld. However, these cases are the representative of the plight of over 40,000 subjects waiting with some faint hope of restoring their citizenship.

Case 1: Samdrup Jongkhar: “His Majesty is our ultimate hope. The future of our children depends on his grace. I tried my best by appealing and visiting the tiers of authorities to present my family’s case with our beloved king. The procedure to meet the king starts at the village level and I always stumble reaching up to the Dzongkhag.  My grandfather and father were born in this country. My grandfather passed away long ago. My father was arrested in the early 1990s for he was a social worker. Later on, he was released with a condition that he would leave the country. He was in another district and I was in Samdrup Jongkhar. Thus, he and the rest of my siblings left the country. In his absence, the census team in 1991 and 1992 kept my family’s census registration in pending.  Now, I only hope that my children not be punished so long for no fault of their own. I may die soon but before I die I want to see my children become ‘citizens’ of their beloved country where they were born.”

Case 2: Thimphu: “I am a father of three children. I am a citizen of Bhutan. I got married in January of 1990. My in-laws left the country in 1991 but by then we had not transferred my wife’s census record to my household. During the census of 1992, my wife could not produce Certificate of Origin (CO) from her parent’s side since they were not in the country at the time.  My three kids are recorded under my wife’s census status.  So, my wife and three kids are still stateless. One of the National Assembly members (current) during the 2013 general election assured us saying if their party won the election the cases like ours would be in their priority so that my family members would become citizens.  Now, it is almost four years since the last election but there has been no indication of anything happening to resolve this pestering issue of my family and that of thousands similar to mine.”

Case 3: Phuntsholing: “This year (2017) is the ‘silver jubilee’ of our sufferings and agonies. We have spent all these years by marking the auspicious days on the calendars with the hope to hear from our benevolent King for a ‘kidu’— a kidu to become citizens of the country we love and call home. I have visited so many Temples and lhakhangs and offered butter lamps all these years to see the light of hope; have read all the issues of the national daily for any good news related to my sufferings. Now, my eldest son graduated from a university in India. He is in the country trying his luck to settle in a job. He cannot apply for any of the government jobs for he is not a ‘citizen’ yet! He has appealed through Dzongkhag administration a couple of times for reviewing our case. Years have passed without any news. I hope I would be able to call myself a proud citizen of the country of Gross National Happiness (GNH). It’s beyond one’s imagination to suffer for 25 years with no good reasons.”

Your Majesty, the nation has lots of problems to address: unemployment among the increasing numbers of graduates is above 3% (per labor ministry’s statistics) and people assume it might be higher; involvements of youth in drug abuse and anti-social activities reported to be increasing at an alarming rate; alcoholism has become a national disease and shame – ‘Alcohol is the highest killer in the nation’ and there are hardly any families where someone is not suffering from mental illness of some sort. The public’s concern of ‘free-corruption’ against ‘corruption-free’ is brimming up slowly. The minds of the young generation Bhutanese are being planted with seeds of nepotism and favoritism as the hallmark of elites in power. Therefore, it’s imperative that the paradigm of GNH has to go hand-in-hand to make the youngest democracy flourish in the kingdom with no sufferings.

It is a great national culture of the kingdom to commemorate the auspicious occasions with various themes, one being thankful to Their Majesties, wishing and praying for their well-being, sound health, and long life. Those occasions are so precious where all loyal citizens express their gratitude towards their national guardians. And, citizens expect some types of kidus from the kind end of Their Majesties- and this has been a national tradition.

Your Majesty, for some unknown reasons, highly regarded occasions of historic importance in the year 2016 ended up hollow, with nothing towards addressing the longest festering citizenship issues which I believe is the root cause of so many problems in the kingdom.

May the February 21st (2017) the auspicious birthday of Your Majesty put an end to the silent sufferings of those deserving citizens. Constituting a commission as per the constitution and expedite the process of addressing the citizenship issue would be a reward from Your Majesty’s end to the children of those parents.  I beg you to make 2017 the year these stale citizenship issues a priority.

Long live Your Majesty, long live the true essence of GNH, and may Bhutan lead the world as a carbon-neutral country, and prosperity and justice for all.

Yours affectionately,

On behalf of those anticipating Your Majesty’s consideration

 

Photo Courtesy:

The official Facebook page of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck- Editors