At a time when Nepal that has failed to convince Bhutan to accept its citizens back home or internationalise the refugee imbroglio even after two decades, is trying to depopulate exiled Bhutanese from the UN-monitored camps, a few dedicated exiled Bhutanese including the camp secretaries and septuagenarian medical doctor Bhampa Rai are struggling to install a Bhutanese museum in Nepal.
Being planned to set up in either Sanischare or one of the Beldangi camps, the museum aims to preserve culture, identity and history of the Bhutanese citizens in exile.
“Our dream of keeping evidences in Nepal shall clear the allegation of the regime to keep overshadowing international community that we are not Bhutanese citizens,” explains Sarada Adhikari (Timsina).
Like Adhikari Dr Lakshmi Prasad Dhakal, Executive Director of the Punya Foundation,comments that museum, as a concept, is extraordinary. “If this idea would materialize, it will keep our eroding history alive. It will definitely give a space, a space to think and internalise our tragedy in days to come – to us, younger generation and to the world as whole.”
Adhikari, who has a Master’s degree in Finance from the Tribhuwan University, is chairperson of the Organization Protecting Indigenous Culture & Identity of Exiled Bhutanese (OPICEB). Other executives of the organization included camp secretaries, Dr Bhampa Rai as Museum Resource Analyst, and Multimedia and Animation Specialist Tika Ram Timsina.
Based on the permission of the local authority, the OPICEB has its camp-based office in Sanischare camp.
“The struggle to set up a working office in the camp was challenging,” says Adhikari recalling her initial days in the past, “However, we are lucky that aid agencies including the Lutheran World Federation and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also supported the local authority’s decision to offer the office space in Sanischare.”
Meanwhile, the organization said it has been lobbying with the government authority to obtain legal status for establishing the museum in government land but with a proposed management team from within the Bhutanese community.
A delegation from the organization also met Chief District Officer of Jhapa on August 14. He has instructed all Camp Supervisors of the Refugee Coordination Unit to support OPICEB and its activities in camps. However, the struggle to obtain the organization’s legality is still on.
The Nepal Bar Association (NBA) Jhapa chapter has been providing all legal advises to the organization. “The Bar has formed a three-member body to lobby with the government regarding the land and registration,” says advocate Gyanendra Karki.
There are expectations that the protection of the Bhutanese identity and culture would be well addressed by preserving the copies of documents in the form of metal itched texts along with logbook register where every Bhutanese in future would be able to table their proof of origin of Bhutan.
For political analyst R.P.Subba based in Verginia this kind of museum will always stand (for the Bhutanese regime) as a reminder of the heinous crimes they unleashed on humanity – similar to the concentration camps in Germany, during the Nazi regime.
Analyst Subba further adds that it will be a testimony to Nepal’s failure in sending the refugees back to their legitimate homes; until the refugees have to make museums to preserve their past history.
At present, collection of various materials has been underway. However, the organization said not much has been done in that regard due to fund crisis.
“We expect to garner possible supports from the resettled community to operate and manage the museum,” adds Chairman Adhikari.
But, Dr Dhakal claims that resettled Bhutanese some five years before and now are financially emancipated. In his words, money should not be a problem to take initiative and give continuity to sustainability of any good programs. However, for Dr Dhakal, to have money does not equate to give money.
Chairperson Adhikari hopes that they (the resettled people) would support the idea by providing the historic materials and belongings of the camps, and extending their helping hands.
The organization is also running bakery training in Sanischare camp to collect some funds for the basic expenses.
In coming days, it also aims to start a multimedia and animation training. “This will be the next fund raising scheme for the museum,” explains Adhikari, who aims to do a large donation drive from the resettled community in near future.
Taking some past examples, analyst Subba opines that the idea of museum will have no problem selling in the diaspora. “In large part, it is in the interest of every body to contribute to something that preserves their own history,” he elaborates.
But, he regards that a clear mission with perceptible objective is a must to motivate the resettled community towards the museum.
According to Dr Rai, the museum might benefit the Government of Nepal in tourism promotion by attracting thousands of resettled fellow-countrymen and foreigners in long run.
Materializing the concept of a Bhutanese museum in Nepal is not an easy task considering all the inviting costs. However, the museum team is fully committed in achieving the goal, but remains dependent on the resettled community in establishing and operating the museum independently.
“The Government of Nepal will certainly help us protect our cultural heritages and allow us to obtain legitimacy to our organisation for preserving the left over documents, cultural recipes, dress and etiquettes of the Bhutanese refugee community in the form of museum,” says Adhikari, as she presents her ultimate expectation from the host country – Nepal.