A committee named ‘Bhutanese Stambha Nirman Samiti’ has been announced on October 3, 2020 for the purpose of constructing a Bhutanese Refugee Memorial Tower (the name yet to be deliberated and finalized), at the site of the first Bhutanese refugee camp at Kotihome, Jhapa, Nepal.
The proposed site for the monument is also popularly known by the name Kankai Maai. The river bank had witnessed the malaise in series faced by the Bhutanese refugees in the early 1990s, and hundreds of lives comprising mostly infants, toddlers and elderlies were lost.
According to a press statement signed by Narayan Phuyal Sharma, spokesperson of the Samiti, the committee is formed under the convenorship of Dr. Bhampa Rai, a medical professional and dedicated Bhutanese social worker for decades serving the Bhutanese refugee community since the inception of the camps in Nepal.
“The committee is constituted with due consideration to the geographic and demographic composition of the Bhutanese Community in the diaspora,” added the statement.
The statement further added that the committee will collaborate with the local Nepalese committee in Kotihome, Jhapa that is executing a larger project of developing Kotihome, the site of the first Bhutanese refugee camp, as a religious and tourist destination.
“The Bhutanese Refugee Memorial Tower is an integral part of that larger development project and has to be erected within the physical space and dimensions agreed upon and allowed by the said local Nepalese committee,” reads the statement, adding- “An agreement specifying all essential details will be soon entered into between the Bhutanese Stambha Nirman Samiti, represented by its members currently based in Nepal and the local Nepalese committee.”
The statement further added that the specific details as to the type or content of the proposed memorial tower are yet to be determined. “The general understanding thus far arrived at is that the local Nepalese Committee will not interfere in the specific details or contents of the memorial tower.”
“The only condition thus far specified by the local Nepalese committee is that the said memorial tower must be physically contained within the bounds of the physical space provided. The proposed agreement between the Bhutanese Stambha Nirman Samiti and the local Nepalese committee shall also mutually determine the height of the proposed tower,” added the statement.
According to the statement, the task of constructing the ‘stambha’ will begin at the designated site as soon as the agreement is entered into.
“The memorial will be a tall symbol of our collective memory of being persecuted and its memorialization in history. Erected adjacent to the East-West highway, the tower, while attracting the attention of visitors, onlookers or passer byers, will perpetually remind that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The memorial tower will be a solemn reminder of our collective history of being persecuted and evicted and it shall symbolize our shared aspirations for conserving our history,” read the statement.
The Bhutanese Stambha Nirman Samiti has also appreciated the gesture of the local Nepalese committee to allow the Bhutanese diaspora to memorialize their history at a place that provided them hospitality at a time of overwhelming distress in their collective life.
In a virtual press meet with BNS on October 8, where a select few committee members were present, Sharma further clarified that the committee has expected to fund this project with financial support from the Bhutanese diaspora.
It is reportedly learnt that details of the costs involved in this project is yet to be determined.
“The Bhutanese diaspora must treat this as an opportunity to consolidate their history through a physical representation. Being the first of its kind in the history of the diaspora, the committee anticipates a widespread participation and support of the entire diaspora,” said Sharma, adding- “The committee commits to inform the Bhutanese diaspora on the details of the work on a consistent basis as and when progress is made on the matter.”