I arrived in Bhutan a few days after the second general elections – a milestone in the journey of our country’s fledgling democracy.
A milestone unfortunately marred with ugly accusations hurled at each other from both sides of the two political parties that had contested – The People’s Democratic Party and Druk Phuesum Tshogpa.
The air over Thimphu, I found was heavy with mistrust, fear, whispers and confusion.
The rumor mill was busier than usual and many had taken to social media to air and battle out their differences. The most insidious of these posts and comments on social media seemed to come from those who have much to gain from inciting fear and hatred by branding people as “anti-nationals” and “Ngolops” thereby expressing their hate and hoping they appear “patriotic.” Some of these posters were ostentatious enough to let others know that they were the only ones concerned for the King and country.
Having split my life between Bhutan and living overseas for over a decade now I can only speak from what I have witnessed outside and from the experiences of what others in the world have gone through before us in history. When segregation is promoted and a group of people are targeted and branded as traitors simply because of their race, religion, caste, color, choice of a political party, and for speaking their thoughts, then it means that people promoting it are ignorant enough not to understand what a functioning democracy is. This behavior actually undermines the democracy it pretends to promote. It, therefore, makes me wonder, is it a true democratic culture that we aspire to build or do we want to become a caricature of a democracy like those we see all to often around us in the region. A caricature where a small few inspire outrage and violence because they cannot tolerate the views or differences of those in the community.
Without fail, those inculcating this climate of fear have vested interests to control the dialogue and outcome for the larger population because this is what fear-mongers do. If leaders and a government heed to the divisive calls of these small-minded inciters then our country will likely go down the path of many other nations that have suffered immensely from these consequences. We are not starving for examples either. There are plenty of them out there in the world today where categorization of a group of people through hate speech, fear, and incitement can have such unthinkable consequences.
The individuals who have called to “hang” certain people or demanded the death of certain individuals only goes to show that we have amongst us, ignorant blinkered individuals who have no understanding of the consequences and implications of their words and actions. Individuals who in fact look to nations beyond our borders not to learn to curtail them within our borders, but to promote violence/imprisonment/hanging/death-threats on their adversaries through hate speech. What is worrisome is when they see nothing wrong in doing it or think it is justified because of their cause.