Dal Bahadur Khadka, who is a volunteer at the camp management committee of Beldangi-II camp, has received a letter from Chemgang Central Jail, where dozens of political prisoners have been spending their pathetic lives since late 80s and early 90s.
The letter has asked Khadka and the exiled community to raise concern over the deteriorating health of 61-year-old N.L. Katwal, a senior leader of the Bhutan Gorkha National Liberation Front.
According to the letter dated November 12, Katwal was reportedly undergoing fast-unto-death since October 17. The family source claimed he has been demanding unconditional release of all political prisoners.
“He has been fasting-to-death since 27 days. We are worried about his deteriorating health. He has lost almost 10 kilogram of the body weight,” reads the prison letter, which Khadka received this week through one of the ICRC visitors.
The letter also claims that the government was silent towards the protest inside the jail.
Interestingly, the UN agencies in the capital city and media operating within the country have all remained mum over this issue.
“We ask you to highlight his hunger strike through various national and international media to put pressure on the government. Otherwise, his situation is really critical,” adds the letter.
Meanwhile, Tek Bahadur Katwal said he has already alerted the ICRC office in Kathmandu about the ongoing hunger strike of his father inside the prison.
“We have been told that ICRC office in New Delhi will monitor his situation inside the prison. However, we are very much worried since no one knows if our dad has ended the hunger strike or not,” expresses he.
His father was preparing for fasting-to-death when he last visited the Central Jail in Thimphu earlier this September, he claimed.
“This is the second time that my father has chosen fast-unto-death demanding unconditional release of all political prisoners from various jails of the country.”
In 2009, activist Katwal fasted-to-death for a week before a team of doctors forcefully administered glucose to him, bringing the hunger strike to an end.
Katwal, who was arrested in 2000 from Phuntsholing while leading a peaceful rally, has been serving a jail term of 13 and a half years after the country’s highest kangaroo court found him guilty of ‘demonstrating against the government and disturbing peace and harmony in the country’.
Unfortunately, the Bhutan Gorkha National Liberation Front that was fighting for dignified repatriation of exiled Bhutanese and unconditional release of political prisoners from various jails, has become a defunct party and is not in a position to raise this issue at present, as most of the central leaders have retired from the exiled politics or already accepted the third country resettlement.
“The party will not do any thing to save the life of my father. Various human rights groups, ICRC and media should put pressure on Bhutan to fulfill demands of my father,” he clarifies.
According to him, the family has been requesting the ICRC to schedule a prison visit immediately to know the status of his father.
“So far we haven’t received a positive response in this regard. However, we regard that it is our right to know if our father is dead or still alive.”