A reporter’s story from field

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Arjun PradhanThe people in the community always thought that there should be equal love and respect form each side. If one is educated he or she must educate the own community on various aspects of life. Let me cite a popular saying in Nepali that thematically translated as “if a woman is educated, her whole family is educated”.  Now that is not the case, but opposite to this norm. Today the educated fellows care more about their own life style and take community role as hostile to their daily business.

My point of view is: the Bhutanese community is educated and has entered a phase of economic empowerment with improved life style after resettlement in the third countries.  Nevertheless, those uneducated and elderly who did not go to school back in their country, are still less privileged.  They are still living with depression, frustration, trauma of being separated from their possession culminating to bring a feeling of finishing one’s life.

If we allow ourselves to flash back on our life in camp, we shall realize how far we have traveled.  We lived under penury, very basic need of food and shelter not enough for the daily subsistence, poor health and other human needs too.  For making a decent living, we often crossed the boundary of refugee camps and went out to earn some money. The result, for sure, would be with punishment like suspending of ration, deregistration from the camp record, or sometimes false allegation and police custody. With the cheap labor force, local area got developed. Refugees got lower wage rates with lot of harassment and abuse by the local people.

After all, the local area initially with small shanty towns, developed to lively business hubs.

Meanwhile, group fighting and scuffles arose time and again between Bhotangey and local Nepalese. Bhotangey is a derogatory identity to all camp people. When such issues arise, it is always the camp people to lose for they are not considered equal to the local Nepali citizens in terms of getting their fundamental rights protected.

There are painful moments. No one is aware about the rights and duties. All are under supervision of the Nepalese government and UNHCR. So, everybody has to take permit while going out of the camps. Getting back to camps, the people often faced false charges of violating the camp rules, and this is mostly applied to the youths. To some young people whose parents did not live in camps, the experience is more bitter. Often they fell victims to unlawful detention, engaged in gang fight, rape, illicit drug use and other felony leading to prison cells. With the increase of material need and lust for modern goods, more youths fell into criminal cases. Burglary, theft, arson and girl trafficking emerged to be common phenomena in camps.

To curb these growing social problems and to do away with prevailing social evils, literary activities were started that also generated awareness on such issues. They published newspapers, magazines and bulletins to post in school wall magazine and public bulletin boards. That helped young minds to engage in creative activities rather than making their minds a devil’s workshop. Effective was the role played by Children Forum and Youth Forum. Awareness on human rights, domestic violence, abuse, trafficking and others through street drama, conference, meeting, and doors to doors program were conducted.

After all, empowering youth with creative programs with meager  amount of funds did not bring a desired result. Students started dropping out of schools, some  joined the wave of political activities brought by leftist ideologues and  influenced by the success of people’s war in Nepal. It was a movement for repatriation.

Stories of camp life came to news sites and Nepalese news media. Follow up stories and features were published in newspapers attracted refugee students and general people. Every hut was a news source then. The Bhutanese themselves started the news site and published monthly bulletins, first by the political and human rights groups, and later by more media trained non-partisan youths.

After Bhutan News Service was established in 2004, it became a strong and continuous source of information for the camp people. It also acted as advocacy group on behalf of the refugees.   A number of youths served voluntarily and worked full time to get news from different organizations working in the refugee camp. However, it was not a easy task for the young volunteers to collect news from the tricky officials. A lot of hurdles came on the way in the making of a good news for Bhutan News Service. 

Later, the news reported in BNS became a source of information for other local media like FM and newspapers in Jhapa and Morang district of Nepal. Human rights groups, camp management committee, UNHCR, government of Nepal and even international bodies became the consumer of BNS news. The refugee leaders used BNS to inform the public about their plans and programs through their press release. BNS wrote news stories advocating on social issues, women empowerment and repatriation movement with the help of the camp based volunteers and support of organizations involved.

As a team of young professionals, we are always learning to make the information flow a better way with impacts of positive change. So, any information that produces a volley of negative remarks from the community is not enjoyed by BNS. But, the focus is community transformation towards better life with educational and occupational attainment.  From news making within the periphery of refugee camp, BNS has come a long way now to report on matters of international concern in Diaspora as well as in Bhutan. We believe, we do not have enemies to fight nor any good friends to celebrate. Therefore, BNS is always for the community wherever it is.