Two monarchs, who could neither secure the population nor the land area of a small nation that they rule, are at a push to own the glorious title of ‘the Peoples’ King’.
The story is about Bhutan, a 21st century kingdom in the Himalayas, and the two monarchs are His Majesty Jigme Gesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his father, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, born in 1955, began the reign in 1972 after his father’s demise. Two years later he became the fourth king from the Wangchuck Dynasty that had started the monarchical system in 1907 after a sequence of bloody battles and with the patronizing support of the then British India.
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck continued the initiative of development activities to modernize the country, which was started by his father, the third King (Aris, 1995). He traveled nooks and corners of the country and also established friendly relations at an international level.
The country saw a rise in education, health and infrastructure at an unprecedented level. He was the citizens’ king by action and there was no need for decoration.
However, a small group of people insulated him from reality, coercing him to take up a feudal and communal drive in his future approaches. He began to represent a small Ngalong tribe to which his dynasty is said to belong.
Most cabinet members and advisors came from the group who used him to enforce every entity of the Ngalong tribal group as the national – language, culture, costume, custom, etiquette, myths, and beliefs. They pushed all other groups, big and small, toward assimilation through a forceful imposition of Ngalong chauvinism.
The royal government had evicted approximately 15 to 20 percent of the total population that they perceived as their potentially competent competitors through the state-sponsored terrorism. The peoples’ ultimate trust in their leader vanished.
The government distributed the land and properties belonging to the evicted people to those who assisted in the eviction. The government assisted the resettlement with loans and grants to establish its supporters in the evicted land.
The initial idea was to make the resettled people dependent on the government for their survival and reciprocally have their loyalty. However, most resettled people could neither settle well nor have their increasing expectations met.
The people favored by the monarchy are not loyal anymore. Now they know that the government has resettled them in the land made vacant after evicting their original owners.
Less than fifty percent of the Ngalong people that comprise about 16 percent of the total population are happy with their king and his anti-people activities. The few who benefited from the eviction and their loyalty to the throne, and others who are partners in the crime, are still supportive of the system.
Between 2005 and 2008, there was a transition in the country brought with the effort of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The government encoded the existing practices into a constitution and introduced a two-party system. They lifted the ban on the use of the words ‘democracy’ and ‘political party.’
They asked the people to choose one of the two political parties approved by the king. Citizens queued to take part in the election while the people who originally demanded democracy were languishing in prisons for their audacity of demanding it before the king had understood its concept.
Since then, the government started publishing the map of the country, reducing its area and excluding important parts of the country from the map. His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who was trusted as the most powerful person in the country, could neither contain the population and their demands, nor protect the land.
In 2003, the king led his soldiers to exterminate fugitives, from neighbouring Indian states of Assam and Bengal, who were hiding in the forests of Bhutan. Any person not safe within his or her country seeks protection from neighbors.
However, the King of Bhutan, who sided with the Indian government, went to the fugitives’ hideouts and resorted to merciless attacks. The relatives of captured, extradited, and assassinated fugitive neighbors have their grievances to pay back.
His Majesty turned from the citizens’ king to no one’s king from his action of communal and feudal approach to solving the country’s needs. He handed partial power to his son, His Majesty Jigme Gesar Namgyel Wangchuck by making him the fifth king from the dynasty.
Till date, the fifth King has done nothing exemplary or anything wicked. He appears in public as being good to the children and the senior citizens. He seems to have an inferior complexion before senior bureaucrats and diplomats.
To compensate for the loss of the fourth king’s aura during his latter part of his reign, they have conferred a decoration of ‘Peoples’ King’ on the fifth king without a single action worthy of the title. To uphold the decoration, they renamed a university and few other infrastructures with his name. They display portraits of the royal couple, often with the prince in public places instead of hoarding boards.
The future will tell if His Majesty Jigme Gesar Namgyel Wangchuck can keep the prestige of the decoration throughout his reign and ever after.
Aris, M., (1995). The Raven Crown: The Origins of Buddhist Monarchy in Bhutan. Serindia Publications. ISBN13: 9781932476217.
Kuensel, (2018a). The People’s King is Thirty Eight. Kuenselonline, February 21. Thimphu Bhutan. Retrieved from https://kuenselonline.com/the-peoples-king-is-thirty-eight/
Kuensel, (2018b). Coronation of the People’s King. Kuenselonline, November 1. Thimphu Bhutan. Retrieved from https://kuenselonline.com/coronation-of-the-peoples-king/
Govinda Rizal is the author of “A Pardesi in Paradise” and one of the long-time contributing authors at this news portal. He can be reached at: email@example.com.