Bhutan in Real Sense

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In December 2006, in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the then ruling King, 51 years old Jigme Singye Wangchuk announced that he would abdicate his throne, setting the country to a path toward parliamentary democracy. Earlier in 1991 too, he had made similar type of announcement stating, “If the problem in south is not solved positively, I will abdicate my throne.”  It was with the students of Sherubtse college, then only one in the country. He took the time frame of three years to do the job. But surprisingly in 2006, without hinting a bit of solution to the problem; without mending the fences for democratic setup of government, he just passed over his absolute, autocratic post to his son in the name of ‘abdication.’ He actually gave way to so-called parliamentary, by-party system of ‘democracy graced by an almighty king’. He and the palace have been just irrigating their vested inner desires through the channel of this fake parliamentary system called ‘Democracy’. The rigid royal followers are just utilizing the newfound democracy as a weapon to embark on others instead of making it rooted in the hands of Bhutanese people in real sense.

Anyone can say that the heart of Bhutan’s parliamentary democracy is plugged on to Jigme Singye’s remote brain. What a abdication he chose, when his own kind of kingship is taken over by the young Jigme Khesar?

Learned in Oxford with palace luxury, Khesar does not have proven experience of leading the constitutional monarchy with the basic tenets of traditional politics changed. That’s why he is just going as his father’s obedient pupil in ethno-politics. As a guardian of Bhutanese constitution, he seems less bothered about the refugee problem in general as well as the functioning of democratic organs that can ensure a good governance which Bhutanese people want in real sense and not a illusion.

Very desperately, we have to say that mainly India and the western world persuaded king Jigme assuming his steps as sacrifice to the people of Bhutan. The western world might have taken king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as a role model. But, king Jigme and Bhutan can’t be compared with such a Middle East power block in politico-economic terms. Bhutan remained aloof for dozen of decades from the outer world and so was the political structure, economic activities, civic life and issues of government-citizen relations. For decades, the kingdom home to only six hundred thousand people, has been the adobe of interest by social scientists, independent journalists and even the natural scientists.

Unfortunately, a large chunk of the internal revenue and external grants from the donors went to the palace and its vicinity including the stagnant army. The country was kept off-limits to the world influence by means of restricting television and internet to the public until 1999. A few foreigners who traveled to Bhutan have always been the special guests and taken on a guided tour to some hinterlands of northern Bhutan, away from the human settlement, to view the chhortens, monasteries or dzongs having cultural value. Even some of them are told about the ‘insecurity’ in southern part, if they wish to go some tourist destinations other than the guided ones.

Until these days, in so-called parliamentary democratic system, Bhutan has no precise legal and constitutional provisions protecting freedom of speech, expression, association, and exhibiting dissidence incase of impeachment of fundamental rights of citizens. The forceful use of traditional dress code to other ethnic groups against their will is the violation of civil rights. It only shows the fake nationality superimposed by one ruling ethnic group to other ethnic groups. The direct interference of the home authority on practice of Nyngmapa sect of Buddhism by Sarchhop community is yet another violation of freedom to religion which the Bhutanese delegates to human rights forums have been promising every time.

Instead of promoting western notions like gross national product, gross individual earnings and its productive use, Jigme has created a hazy concept called ‘gross national happiness’ influenced in part by Buddhism, which is limited to the Royal elites.

According to political analysts, Jigme has explained gross national happiness as the “acquisition of contentment rather than capital”- feeling of well-being derived from social and economic development, preservation of culture and environmental conservation among other things. Western academicians pitched upon the idea, introducing annual conference on gross national happiness that features papers like “Planning for sustainable Happiness: Harmonizing our Internal and External landscapes”.

Bhutan’s rural and urban pictures are distantly different. In rural areas, Bhutan remained almost unaffected by the passage of time. Dzongs, the massive fortress and monasteries consisting of white stone citadels with imposing pagoda-roofs-towered over the landscape, pristine marvels compared to the ruined regions of Nepal, Tibet and northern India, much of which are scarred by logging and industry. Inside the dzong prayer halls, red robed novice monks chanted sutras and burnt smoky butter lamps in front of imposing statues of local deities.  In the plains around the dzongs, men threshed rice by hand and cut new fields with small trowels, while local women shooed cows, boars and wooly yaks along the footpaths.

But, in Thimpu, the capital, there can be found that gross national happiness didn’t always live up to its advertising. Frustrated by the lack of economic opportunity, seeing the relative modernity of India on Indian TV broadcasts and chafing at restrictions on dress and speech, young Bhutanese have begun to lash out.  In recent years once-sleepy Thimpu has witnessed a crime wave and one study showed that a significant number of young Bhutanese watch TV twelve hours a day. In downtown Thimpu, young class shucked their traditional Gho-checked, bathrobe-like outfits cut off at the knees-for jeans, T-shirts and mobile phone holsters at night. They prowled in bunches and mock-brawled in city squares, mimicking the American professional wrestling shown on TV. Adolescents have also developed major drinking problems- there can be seen young Thimpu residents spending evenings sucking down drugs and cough syrup and then fighting in the streets for real. One night, a few years ago a tourist saw two young men bloodying each other on the icy main drag. Like audiences of a film, referees waiting for combatants to fall on the ice, a small crowd let them fight until they hit the ground and then separated the boys.

Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk/Picture courtesy : The Telegraph

Bhutan’s supposed uniqueness has also attracted upscale Western travelers who have brought on the very change Bhutan supposedly resisted. High-end hoteliers have set up shops in Bhutan, building luxurious resorts complete with Yoga classes, masseuses imported from Thailand, and pan-Asian cuisine that could have come straight from Bali (Indonesia). Celebrities have been decamping onto tiny Thimpu. One day, a tourist went hiking with a local Bhutanese guide, Ugyen. He hurried him up a mountain and when the tourist reached the top, Ugyen told him,”We’re making pretty good time…May be if we get to space 34 [ a local night club] early we’ll see Cameroon Diaz”. “Cameroon Diaz?” the tourist asked, befuddled. The idea of seeing a Charlie’s Angel in a place where some of the countries still lacked electricity seemed at the least, far-fetched. “Yeah, she was here recently”, Ugyen said to the tourist, ” She was on the dance floor all night at space 34, dancing real sexy with a group of people…..I think she had some rapper with her, too. You know that guy-Redman?” (The tourist later found out she was actually shooting an MTV show on the environment in Bhutan).

A depressing tale, perhaps-just another traditional culture that could not stand up to modernity, indeed when there are many Westerners in Bhutan who’d come to see the gross national happiness and left disappointed by Bhutan’s nightclubs, parties and cell phones. Except that in recent years the king had made propaganda that he himself apparently decided to grace his people that his subjects could embrace elements of the modern world without losing their unique identity.

Now, having known all these realities can’t we say Bhutan’s new hazarded parliamentary democracy is cornered in Thimpu, and it is unknown to the real Bhutanese people?

Former founder/editor of ‘Sandesh Saptahik,’ a weekly Nepali-language newspaper which stopped after some years of publications due to lack of funds,  Ghimire is associated with BNS
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36 COMMENTS

  1. This article is just a peace of crap. It is written just for the shake of writing article for this blog. You scolded Kings, you scolded Bhutan and what else you want… U dont have to bother about us. We are good.

    And last pragraph are just copy-paste sentences with monor changes in the words. First paragraph perhaps is your own creation but has many silly gramatical errors.

  2. What a silly and bogus commentator you are Mr. Fake Budha! You people are perpetrators to one sixth of own citizens in the name of non-violent Budha! Anyway thanks for your comments. May be, you are correct thinking as you are good but, the condition of a nation is judged by all and we know whether it is good or bad. You don’t need to portray it with a synthetic exposure.
    Please feel comfortable to be a grammar teacher to all the Bhutanese writers writing from abroad, because you might have spent a lot of amount from government grants, in the name of studies when we were not getting NOC for up-gradation.

  3. The people supporting the palace in Bhutan are just a gang of rude hooligans. Non of a single person from civic life is supporting the palace. The article written in this site is appropriate and 100% at right point. Hope to see such articles regularly.

  4. Mr. little buddha
    You guys don’t find any importance in the article like, this because of various reasons. The first reason may be: you are so blindfolded chanting the slogans about monarchy or you may be the part of the paid vigilantes who try to interpret the truth otherwise. The above article is reality about Bhutan, every body should take this bitter truth into consideration. I would like to appreciate the writer daju and suggest him to keep using his pen to bring this types of opinion into discussion.

  5. Excellent 2 put 4wad the variants against the feudalistic ideas n system as a whole.But its really an irony of fate 2 criticise this artical illmotively in an ill manner as done by this little buddha.Y dont u think of a healthy democratic way of a ideological compitition,mr.Buddha?

  6. Excellent 2 put 4wad the variants against the feudalistic ideas n system as a whole.But its really an irony of fate 2 criticise this artical illmotively in an ill manner as done by this little buddha.Y dont u think of a healthy democratic way of an ideological compitition,mr.Buddha?

  7. Little Buddha you keep checking other’s mistake but, try to identify your own mistake first. your “Peace” should be “piece” right? So, my suggestion to little buddha is, look your own mistakes before you point your finger towards others.
    The gist of the opinion is undeniable truth. Thumbs up to writer bro..

  8. First of all, most of you are crying only. Whoever writes articles of this kind on refugee issue; same old common claims; redundency and no palatability…….1/6th of population outside…..ethnic cleansing…..Bhotes……Palace controlled country…. Dictators and so on…….
    The truth is your brethren are happy in Bhutan. Your own ethnic community (lotshampa) are ministers (Thakur singh and Nanda lal), and on contrary of what you all are trying to portray, all ethnic group are happy and love Bhutan. And the irony of the fact that….most of you are lucky to be landed in USA and other countries in the name of resettlement. The best thing would be to focus for the development of your new country and not crying for our country.
    We would consider BHUTANESE only for those who love and praise our country, wear our national dress in an important public events, write articles on our developmental issues, show Bhutanese culture in the cultural program, knows playing archery, knows cooking AEMA-DACHI, knows Cham dances, sings our national anthems ….and goes on.
    On contrary, you people………..hate Bhutan, hate our king, hate our Aema-Dachi, perform Nepali dances in your cultural program, and hate to wear our national dress, do not even know our national anthem, negative about Bhutan’s progress, and consider Nepali over Bhutanese and goes on. And you are advising Bhutan!!!!!!!!
    My point is what are you all trying to achieve with the write-ups of this kind in this blog?

  9. Can you make CLEAR Definition of National Dress? I mean universally accpetped one.We know the taste real Tast Ama Dachai.
    I think we do, so we have the cause to live by. Thanks at least you accepted as Bhutanese Resettled in USA or Else where. I feel that our comman Answer is we are looking for Real Happiness.

  10. Article is substandard and incoherent.

    If you want to embark on this bullshit campaign, at least get a decent journalist with a brain.

    But I guess this says it all…..

    ….”Former founder/editor of ‘Sandesh Saptahik,’ a weekly Nepali-language newspaper which stopped after some years of publications due to lack of funds, Ghimire is associated with BNS.”

    All in all, nothing the readers should take seriously. A bull product from someone who apparently has a lot of time, a vague idea and no brains.

  11. Mr. Aku,
    Don’t sink your brain into a muddy pond. Are u thinking yourself as decent as the writer? No, never! You aloof, moving backward, sluggish, illminded, pretending as the lover of modernity but acting as of stake holder of Stone Age, What you know all about in Journalism? Do you know in exile we have many more journalists having great knowledge of analyzing and moving forward to create a better sense of humanity and justice in Bhutan! Why did you use the term ‘bullshit’? Actually your projection here seems bullshit, mind it!

  12. My Dear AKU,
    what u know about refugee? we the people suffering a lot in long exil. so what ever we wrote, it is always true and fact.that is why dear aku it is not cleaver idea to argue with this point. instead of that please try to think about our coming future.

  13. Hello, Hello………………Mr.Fake Budha! Are you hearing me?
    We love and praise our country but not the cruel rulers, wear dress of our own choice, where there is important public event or others, write articles on our social issues, show Bhutanese culture in diversity in any cultural programs. We know playing archery, cooking AEMA-DACHI very well. We know Chham dances, sings our national anthems ….and goes on. I can teach you each and every thing which you have stated above, Mr Budha !
    We respect others to be self-respected but you! You hate others to be aloof and drag away the country towards the stone age. The day will come, you will realize all these realities one day.

  14. Dear Ghimirejee,
    Its really a good article to read and analyze but who hears such cries and agonies accept “BNS” who in return gets filthy words of more “injustice and hatred” like the fake Little Buddha” who may not be knowing or understanding the real fact. But forget and forgive such little ones as ours is the heart as big as universe and can adjust in any corners of the world without fear, hatred and injustice. Keep it up man!

    S.B.Gurung,
    Manchester,NH

  15. Bro Bhakta,
    I really appreciate your article. Keep it up and never stop writing as
    “Truths are always bitter” for autocratic rulers and vigilantes. The world has been dominated by Evils and Devils who never gets satisfied with their greed and thirst for wealth and ethnicity in most of the under developing nations. A very False hereditary faiths and belief never updated their minds and spirit and no rulers abandoned the feelings of conservatism and scientific educations like in the western world and most of the christian nations who never denied to help the needy ones irrespective of their faith and ideologies. Its all a game between Evil VS Good or Devil spirit vs Holy Spirit as we go through Holy books in any religion,it has already been predicted as conflicts starts from each families, neighborhood and from every communities…all predictions are coming truth…politics which generated from religion reveals every incidents the real one….Bhutan has been the dreamland of more than hundred thousands refugees since 19 years but why it remained as question mark till now? No one is there to take risk of minority without single investment and super intellectuals in politics. “Better late than never” has too failed our motives…But may it be “Better never than late”..may suit the most hidden political situations in Bhutan as big giant Indian Dhoti Support…”The True home of Chanakya” The most intelligent person ever dwelled in India and having the same ideology of support to Bhutan an tiny little innocent kingdom very long time back! Lets anyway be in TRUTH which as we know grinds slow and steady! Hats to your write ups again!

  16. Where did u people have gone Mr.Budha and Aku? Comon! Are u tired of debating on Bhutan issues??? Ill feelings are always halted in middle of the way. Vanish in vain! Futile, ends with no results!!!

  17. Hallo Mr. Budha and Mr. Aku,
    I have a reservation for both of you.
    come on guys, grow up ! you look like civilized uncivilize people seeing your unhealthy debate. Do you think the truth can be hidden? No, never. If I were you,I would have appreciated the writer and shut my pen up rather than proving what I was not coz the writer is right to write what the truth is. you must know, truth is always to victory whereas fake is always to lost. It is quoted,’God sees the truth but wait.’

    Dear writer, I see potiential strength in your pen. Keep strengthening unless you achieve the victory. I will be always at your side for this type of write-ups. God bless you.

  18. It is intersting to read all comments given in this blog. However, im not satified with Mr.Budha & Mr. Aku for their senseless and unhealthy comments.The writer of this artical is cent percent right to highlight the reality in form of artical. I hope, this articel has brought the concern about RGOB’s activites to the international community. I hummbley praise an salute the writer for writing such an aritcle living in exile. Thumbs up!

  19. Mr/Mrs, Bhakta Ghimire, you should not bring such fake notion in the forum. You talk a lot about freedom of speech, human rights and had alleged that such are not in Bhutan though it adopted democracy. Did you ever go through “The Consitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2008”? These are all encripted in the Constitution. Go through once and comment me back.

    MR.Fake Budha, as ur name suggests “Fake”, its a shame on your mother to give birth to a human like you with ill heart & mind. Through this article you people are trying to influence others, “Evil Mind is Devil’s Workshop”. If you people bing on such issues time and again, the two governments step towards solving the issue may also stop looking at your face. So you may lend up in such situation for generations and generations, even worser than this one. I pray for your worser generation bro…!!!

  20. Dear friends firstly we must congratulate the king of Bhutan for installing democratic system. It may have many fallacy or drawbacks in the newly installed system. People of Bhutan have to understand the rights and responsibility of democracy and to modify it by making it as strong democratic instruments.

    Bhutan has 691,141 populations, officially and there is more than 100,000 Bhutanese people are staying in 7 UNHCR camps in Jhapa and Morgan districts of South Nepal as Refugees. Bhutan Must Accept those people and incorporate them in to the democratic system.

    I don’t understand, Why Bhutan government is not resolving the issue?

  21. Ha ha ha…who made u compelled that u felt to say whether u are a true or falls Bhutanese/ Once u are a national, there could be no question of true or falls/ Your notion in first step itself hints ba smell man/Absolutely u r fake in name as well as in intellect.
    Though u were talking with the writer of this article, I like to take his place to reply u / you were talking about your constitution 2008/ Its just a piece of crap man/ calcifying your bad deeds in a silky clothe. Your so-called democratic consti…doesn’t contain a real sense of civil rights man/

  22. I being one of the real Bhutanese, i find this article very much factual rather than bullshitting. Bhutanese are proud that we have GNH as a primary goal of the country, but we are really far behind our goal. Now, Bhutan is democratic country, we want changes, progression is just impossible without change. we don’t want one single politician making a decision on everybody’ behalf, we want a freedom of speech,freedom of action and we are really in need of critic writer like the author of this post. If no body show up with some sort of critic, we are not gonna grow ourself. Bhutan should have diverse culture and religion ethnicity rather than just one religion (Buddhist) and one culture( age old culture). I am not saying that Bhutan should get rid of Buddhism and old culture, but we should accept different culture into our society and we gotta accept the changes that Bhutanese youths are making. we want to respect our leaders, but at the same time, we want our leaders to respect us a human.

    Thanks for letting me share

  23. The article explores into various aspects of Bhutan’s reality and reveals the queer contradictions that it is having to live with. Anyway, what we have been able to witness over the decades is very interesting that the mighty and the powerful are not able to stop ‘the idea whose time has come’. And of course, the Bhutanese people will never let the country to extinct like dinosaur by allowing it to be cocooned in the past.

    Change is inevitable … All Bhutanese should take pride in the fact that for last many decades we were prepared to suffer in the struggle for change and that we are now able to see the transformation taking place gradually and firmly … Time will take its course … Its irreversible.

  24. Bullshit , little buddha , u r the fake budha and dont underestimate our people. At least as a buddhist , follow the principle of buddha and shabdrung.It is sure u r the bullshit,nonsence with no humanity.

  25. Well, this article does bring sound reading. A good analysis as far as I am concerned about the Bhutanese politics as exercised by ‘the palace’. It certainly underlines the hoax of democracy in Bhutan. I have to agree that most of the west is oblivious about the real situation in this not so gross happy country.

    The commentary of little buddha (the name does sound fitting for as far as the proverb ‘little’ is concerned) is nothing more than a North Korean style parroting of Bhutanese government statements. To be disregarded in stead of taking the least bit serious.

    It is important that analysis of the politics inside Bhutan and wheelings and dealings of the monarchy are unveiled and frequently published to educate Bhutanese and people from other countries, especially in the West, about the true nature of affairs.

    Democracy, human rights and civil rights are words that can by no means be attached to a country that has exiled almost 20% of it’s population in the percentagewise largest cultural-ethnic cleansing since world war two. It is a shame that the international community is disregarding the reality in Bhutan, it is a shame that India is doing the samen and it is a shame that the United Nations are choosing resettlement as the only viable option for the exiles in stead of building political pressure on the Bhutanese regime in favor of repatriation.

    Reality also says that the damage to the Bhutanese society is done and almost if not completely irreversible. The monarchy and government got away with ethnic cleansing because the international community doesn’t want to see the democratization in Bhutan pushing through. Because if that would happen it would mean Bhutan would go the same way as Sikkim. The monarchy would fall because no monarch can get away with breaching basic human rights of the people and oppressing the people. If the monarchy would fall it would as a by effect have that the Indian-Chinese border would be extended with all the geopolitical risks attached to that fact. Therefore the Bhutanese monarchs can get away with lies and deceit, with human rights violations, crazy laws and using the army and police to oppress freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of travel, freedom of identity (clothing, religion, language), freedom of ethnic variety and so on and so forth.

    Still, one day the international community will wake up. One day the monarchy will loose power. Because not a single oppressive political system has survived in history. And so it is certain that in the end the current dynasty of freeloading monarchs will fall. Time always wins in the end.

    In the meanwhile it is the obligation of every concerned human being and every concerned human rights organization to advocate the rights of the people of Bhutan including all those who live outside Bhutan in limbo in India and the camps in Nepal and all who have been ‘resettled’ as the result of having only one option for a better life than that in a refugee camp.

    It is with that drive I will continue my work and it is with that same drive I can only hope that more and more people will understand the reality of the Bhutanese situation. And act upon it.

    Alice Verheij
    writer, film maker
    The Netherlands

  26. Hey Mr Buddha….This Is 21st Century.Don’t Proud of Bhutan’s king.Now The Turns is Comming Towards You.He Will Kicks Yours Ass. Because His First Name and Last Name is Registered With Gadafi.

  27. राजा साहेब,
    हेण्डसम देखिनु भएको छ । तर, लाउनु भएको चाहिँ हिन्दूस्तानी कूर्ता हो कि नेपाली दैारा थाहा भएन । जे जस्तो लाउनु भएको भए पनि तपाईँका बुबा हजूरको ड्रिकलामनाम्जाको बिरूद्धको लुगा हो यो । यस्तै जातीय पोषाक लाएको विषयलाई कानूनका बिरूद्ध बनाएर हजारैां भूटानीलाई विभिन्न मुद्धमा फसाएर देश निकाला गरेको छ । त्यो इतिहास बनेर रहेको छ । त्यस कुरालाई ग्रोस नेसनल ह्यापिनेसको विश्वव्यापी नारा लगाएर तपाईको सरकारले मेटाउने कोशिश गरि रहेको छ । तर, सन् १९८६ देखि यता भूटानले मानव अधिकारवादी र प्रजातन्त्रका समर्थक भूटानी जनतामाथि गरेको अमानवीय कृत्य संसारका सबै देशले थाहा पाई सकेका छन् । यस्तो प्रयाश भनेको बलुवामा पानी हाले झैँ हो । एउटा राष्ट्रले यस्तो झूटो कुरोलाई विश्व व्यापी रूपमा प्रचार गर्नको साटो समस्याको शान्तिपूर्ण समाधानको दिशातर्फ अघि बढ्नु बुद्धिमानी कुरो हो । भूटानमा जनताद्वारा जनताको निम्ति जनताले ल्याएको प्रजातन्त्र नै साँचो प्रजातन्त्र हुने छ । झूटो अभियान छोडेर भूटानी शरणार्थी समस्यालाई सकारात्मक रूपमा लिँदै यसको दीर्घकालीन निराकरणतर्फ पहल गर्नु बुद्धिमानी हुनेछ । राज परिवारको गोप्य निर्देशनमा गठन भएका २ वटा पार्टीले मात्र भूटानमा प्रजातन्त्रको सम्बोधन हुन सक्दैन ।
    हिन्दू धर्म शास्त्रमा राजालाई ‘राजा कालस्य कारणम्”——अर्थात् राजा नै समयको कारण हुनसक्छ तर समय राजाको कारण हुँदैन” । तर, राजा र राज शासन नै जनता लुट्ने, घर जलाउने, बलात्कार गर्ने, जेल-नेल र हत्या गर्ने अनि देश निकाला गर्खाने खालको भयो भने त्यस्तो शासन कुनै पनि समय समूल निर्मूल भएर रहेको इतिहास छ ।

    सुशील पोखरेल
    साउथ अष्ट्रेलिया