Dear T Penjore,
I am delighted to read your book Quest for Democracy – against all odds, the first book on Bhutan I read after migrating to Australia early last month. It helped me a lot to revive my passion for democracy and rather worked as a refresher in an alien land where I am feeling lonely.
To my understanding, this is another testimony of leaders fighting against a tyranny – a passionate and consistent fight against all odds. Bhutan has so far been in mission to bamboozle the world community to tag us terrorists and anti nationals. It’s in mission to tell the world that all those demanding democracy and human rights in Bhutan are working against national interest and that Bhutan has not committed any human rights violations or tortured any activists. To my knowledge, yours is the second book (first was by Tek Nath Rizal) to let the world know about hidden cruelty existing in Bhutan, where foreigners’ travel is controlled.
I left my country at a tender age and all I learnt about Bhutanese’s tryst with democracy is from oral tales of village elders and leaders. All stories I heard and articles I read had hardly made me conscious about the torture perpetrated to eastern Bhutan and their yarn for democracy and human rights. Your book proved to be a fruitful source for me on efforts from the east for equality and justice. In many literatures, I realized now that I wrongly read the stories of royal cruelty in Bhutan to be an issue of ethnic cleansing. It’s not the issue of ethnic cleansing rather the individualistic effort from the monarch to promote himself as the supreme human being in Bhutan and make others follow his footpaths. Your struggle in government service, BCCI and while running independent business helped me realized that I was in wide of the mark to perceive torture and inhuman treatment in Bhutan were meant only for Nepali speaking population. However, had you been able to elaborate more on the democracy tryst from east, taste of reading this book would have been more realistic, interesting.
Your narration about exiled Shabdrung inculcated me more of the religious biasness against Nyingmapas, the royal fear of being uprooted from this incarnatory figure and Shabdrung’s sincere efforts towards resolving the refugee imbroglio. While you repeated the stories of driglam namzha and one nation one people policy, which bored me, I appreciate you on republishing twa-wa-sum which many Bhutanese in exile and abroad do not really know or had ever seen.
The story of struggle within the Bhutanese political coterie in exile seems to be confusing – and certainly a lesson learnt from instable politics in Nepal. While your narration presents repeated failure of the Bhutanese political leadership to get together to build a united voice, you have not given a solution of the impasse. As I read through the differences you mentioned among top leadership and their fiasco in Bhutanese democratic struggle, I made my mind to suggest you and all leaders must read ‘Making Ideas Happen’ by Scott Belsky and similar other books.
It seems you have common opinions on many issues including king’s abdication of throne, absence of human organizations in Bhutan and promulgation of constitution which I had expressed through several writings in the past.
Technically, there are few factual errors and typo errors, repetition of events and paragraphs that you might want to correct. In several instances, absence of natural flow of the story might distract the readers. While the initial chapters are written in good proficiency, you seemed to go bored in later ones as you divert in making them like a journalistic note.
Against all odds, your story is readable and a real testimony of a democracy and human rights fighters from a little known country where rulers fool citizens with the impractical philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Not all, but I wish you might want to translate chapter three into Tsangla and Dzongkha to let Bhutanese read whether king’s reluctant acceptance to introduce democracy was his personal will or the international pressures he endured and efforts from the exile. It is the people inside Bhutan who should really understand your story and our consistent efforts for equality and justice there. All the best!
I. P. Adhikari