Educating the educated ones

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The International Campaign for Human Rights in Bhutan (ICHRB), a registered non-profit human rights group claimed that it has started “educating the educated ones” on the other side of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and human rights situation in Bhutan.

“What we are doing will appear as small events, but our efforts to educate the educated ones are definitely more meaningful,” claimed ICHRB Coordinator, Suraj Budathoki.

According to him, the Bhutanese diaspora should teach the hidden side of GNH, and existing human rights situation of Bhutan first to “educated ones”, and then to others.

Budathoki with his team and friends outside Harvard University
Suraj Budathoki (2nd from left) with his team and friends outside Harvard University (Picture courtesy: ICHRB)

“We are playing a role of the little Hummingbird in highlighting the plight of Bhutanese refugees, and suppressions we have undergone,” Budathoki added.

Aimed at educating students, professors, and scholars and seeking their supports for  raising voices against human rights violation in Bhutan, ICHRB held a panel discussion in the Harvard University South Asian Institute on Oct. 24.

Kevin Caffrey, a Lecturer of Anthropology at Harvard University, who has special interest in South East Asian culture and politics, moderated the discussion. While Narad Adhikari, Massachusetts based Bhutanese refugee leader, responded to questions raised during the discussion.

The discussion yielded a kind of conclusion–a true, vibrant and inclusive democracy could ensure human rights and strengthen country’s socio-economic structure suitable to measure the gross national happiness, but not “undefined” parameters used by the Bhutanese rulers, who have defined GNH to simply suit the elites in power.

The program started with the screening of 54-minutes long documentary film, The Refugee of Shangri-La directed and produced by Doria Bramante.

The non-profit is currently garnering supports from “educated ones” to create stronger foundation for a congressional hearing, which according to Budathoki is possible by organizing similar events in universities and colleges in different states.

Dan Forbs, Director of Service Education Meelia Center for Community Engagement Center for Experiential Learning, also attended the event.

Forbs mentioned that presenters and panelists provided an excellent overview of the history, politics and human experiences involved with the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Bhutanese citizens from southern Bhutan, their horrible mistreatment by the government of Bhutan, their lives in refugee camps and their experience resettling in New Hampshire.

The outcome of the event was that the following week the students from Saint Anselm College reflected on the presentation and generated a list of specific issues that they identified from the information presented.

“We generated a list of things that they believed they could do to stand in support of the Bhutanese community,” Forbs told Bhutan News Service.

According to him, there was widespread student outrage at what the Bhutanese refugees had been subjected to, and many questions about why their story was not better known or eliciting more response from Americans who are known to cherish freedom and justice got addressed.

“Students are meeting this week with the Bhutanese community representatives and together they will determine if their work will lead to three separate initiatives or if there will be a large campus event designed to accomplish all three goals – campus awareness, community awareness and social action,” he added.

ICHRB is incorporated as a domestic non-profit organization with the Secretary of the State of the New Hampshire since August 2012 with the mission of establishing, promoting and protecting the rights of the Bhutanese citizens by engaging and involving international human rights organization and individuals.

Vidhyapati Mishra also contributed to this report